Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: The Motor Girls on Waters Blue; Or, the Strange Cruise of the Tartar
Author: Penrose, Margaret
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Motor Girls on Waters Blue; Or, the Strange Cruise of the Tartar" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



THE MOTOR GIRLS ON WATERS BLUE

Or

The Strange Cruise of The Tartar


By Margaret Penrose



CHAPTER I

NEWS


With a crunching of the small stones in the gravel drive, the big car
swung around to the side entrance of the house, and came to a stop,
with a whining, screeching and, generally protesting sound of the
brake-bands.  A girl, bronzed by the summer sun, let her gloved hands
fall from the steering wheel, for she had driven fast, and was tired.
The motor ceased its humming, and, with a click, the girl locked the
ignition switch as she descended.

"Oh, what a run!  What a glorious run, and on a most glorious day!"
she breathed in a half whisper, as she paused for a moment on the
bottom step, and gazed back over the valley, which the high-setting
house commanded, in a magnificent view.

The leaves of the forest trees had been touched, gently as yet, by
the withering fingers of coming winter, and the browns, reds, golden
ambers, purples and flame colors ran riot under the hazy light of an
October sun, slowly sinking to rest.

"It was a shame to go alone, on this simply perfect day," murmured
the autoist, as she drew off one glove to tuck back under her
motoring cap a rebellious lock of hair.  "But I couldn't get a single
one of the girls on the wire," she continued.  "Oh, I just hate to go
in, while there's a moment of daylight left!"

She stood on the porch, against a background of white pillars, facing
the golden west, that every moment, under the now rapidly appearing
tints of the sunset, seemed like some magically growing painting.

"Well, I can't stand here admiring nature!" exclaimed Cora Kimball,
with a sudden descent to the commonplace.  "Mother will be wanting
that worsted, and if we are to play bridge tonight, I must help Nancy
get the rooms in some kind of shape."

As Cora entered the vestibule, she heard a voice from the hall inside
saying:

"Oh, here she is now!"

"Bess Robinson!" murmured Cora.  "And she said she couldn't come
motoring with me.  I wonder how she found time to run over?"

Cora Hung open the door to confront her chum Bess or, to be more
correct, Elizabeth Robinson--the brown-haired, "plump", girl--she who
was known as the "big" Robinson twin--the said Bess being rather out
of breath from her rapid exit from the parlor to the hall.

As might be surmised, it did not take much to put Bess out of breath,
or, to be still more exact, to put the breath out of Bess.  It was
all due to her exceeding--plumpness--to use a "nice" word.

"Oh, Cora!" exclaimed Bess.  "I've been waiting so long for you!  I
thought you'd never come!  I--I--"

"There, my dear, don't excite yourself.  Accidents will happen in the
best of manicured families, and you simply must do something--take
more exercise--eat less--did you every try rolling over and over on
the floor after each meal?  One roll for each course, you know," and Cora
smiled tantalizingly as she removed her other glove, and proceeded to
complete the restoration of her hair to something approaching the modern
style--which task she had essayed while on the porch.

"Well, Cora Kimball, I like your--!"

"No slang, Bess dear.  Remember those girls we met this summer, and
how we promised never, never to use it--at least as commonly as they
did!  We never realized how it sounded until we heard them."

"Oh, Cora, do stop.  I've such a lot to tell you!" and Bess laid a
plump and rosy palm over the smiling lips of her hostess.

"So I gathered, Bess, from your manner.  But you must not be in such
a hurry.  This is evidently going to be a mile run, and not a hundred
yard dash, as Jack would say.  So come in, sit down, get comf'y, wait
until you and your breath--are on speaking terms, and I'll listen.
But first I want to tell you all that happen to me.  Why didn't you
come for a spin?  It was glorious! Perfectly 'magnificent!"

"Oh, Cora, I wanted so much to come, you know I did.  But I was out
when you 'phoned, and mamma is so upset, and the house is in such a
state--really I was glad to run out, and come over here. We are
going--"

"My turn first, Bess dear.  You should have been with me.  In the
first place, I had a puncture, and you'll never in the world guess
who helped me take off the shoe--"

"Your shoe, Cora!"

"No, silly!  The tire shoe.  But you'd never guess, so I'll tell you.
It was Sid Wilcox!"

"That fellow who made so much trouble--"

"Yes, and who do you think was with him?"

"Oh, Ida Giles, of course.  That's easy."

"No, it was Angelina Mott!"

"What, sentimental Angie?"

"The same.  I can't imagine how in the world she ever took up with Sid
enough to go motoring."

"Say, rather, how he took up with her.  Sid is much nicer than he used
to be, and they say his new six-cylinder is a beautiful car."

"So it is, my dear, but I prefer to select my chauffeur--the car
doesn't so much matter.  Well, anyhow, Sid was very nice.  He offered
to put in a new inner tube for me, and of course I wasn't going to
refuse.  So Angelina and I sat in the shade, while poor Sid labored.
And the shoe was gummed on, so he had no easy task.  But I will say
this for him--he didn't even once hint that there was a garage not
far off.  Wasn't that nice?"

"Brave and noble Sid!"

"Yes, wasn't he, Bess?  But I don't want to exhaust all my eloquence
and powers of description on a mere puncture."

"Oh, Cora!  Did anything else happen?" and Bess, who had followed her
chum into the library of the Kimball home, sank down, almost
breathless once more, into the depths of a deep, easy chair.

"There you go again!" laughed Cora, laying aside her cap and veil.
"I'll have to pull you out of that, Bess, when you want to get up.
Why do you always select that particular chair, of all others?"

"It's so nice and soft, Cora.  Besides, I can get up myself, thank
you," and, with an assumption of dignity that did not at all accord
with her plump and merry countenance and figure, Bess Robinson tried
to arise.

But, as Cora had said, she needed help.  The chair was of such a
depth that one's center of gravity was displaced, if you wish the
scientific explanation.

"Now don't you dare lean back again!" warned Cora, as her chum sat on
the springy edge of the chair, in a listening attitude.  "To resume,
as the lecturer in chemistry says, after Sid had so obligingly fixed
the puncture, I started off again, for mamma wanted some worsted and
I had offered to run into town to get it for her.  The next thing
that happened to me, Bess dear, I saw the nicest young man, and ran
right into--"

"Not into him, Cora!  Don't tell me you hurt anyone!" cried Bess,
covering her face with her hands or at least, trying to, for her
hands were hardly large enough for the completion of the task.

"No, I didn't run into him, Bess, though there was a dog--but that's
another story."

"Oh, Cora!  I do wish you'd finish one thing at a time.  And that
reminds me--"

"Wait, Bess, dear.  I didn't run into the young man, but he bowed to
me, and I turned around to make sure who he was, for at first I
thought him a perfect stranger, and I was going to cut him.  In my
excitement, I ran right into a newly oiled place on the road, and,
before I knew it, I was skidding something awful!  Before I could
reach the emergency brake, I had run sideways right against the
curbing, and it's a mercy I didn't split a rim.  And the young man
ran over--"

"Oh, Cora Kimball!  I'll never get my news in, if I don't interrupt
you right here and now!" cried Bess.  "Listen, my dear!  I simply
must tell, you.  It's what I ran over for, and I know you can't have
had any serious accident, and look as sweet as you do now--it's
impossible!"

"Thanks!" murmured Cora, with a mock bow.  "After that, I must yield
the floor to you.  Go on, Bess.  What is it?  Has some one stolen
your car, or have you discovered a new kind of chocolate candy?  I
wish I had some now; I'm simply starved!  You have no idea how
bracing and appetizing the air is.  What was I telling you about?"

"Never mind, Cora.  It's my turn.  You can't guess what has
happened."

"And I'm not going to try, for I know you're just dying to tell me.
Go on.  I'm listening," and Cora sat on a stool at the feet of her
chum.

"Well, it would take too long to tell it all, but what would you say,
if I went on a long sea voyage this winter?"

"What would I say?  Why, my dear, I'd say that it was simply perfectly
magnificent!  It sounds like--like a wedding tour, almost.  A sea voyage.
Oh, Bess, do tell me!" and Cora leaned forward eagerly, expectantly.
"Are you really going?"

"It seems so, yes.  Belle and I shall have to go if papa carries out
his plans, and takes mamma to the West Indies.  You see it's like
this.  He has--"

A knock came at the door.  Cora turned her head quickly, and called:
"Come in!"

A maid entered, bearing on a silver server a note, the manila
envelope of which proclaimed it as a telegraph message.

"Oh, a telegram!"' gasped Cora, and her fingers trembled, in spite of
her, as she opened it.

She gave a hasty glance at the written words, and then cried:

"Oh, it was for mother, but the envelope had 'Miss Kimball' on it.
However, it doesn't matter, and I'm glad I opened it first.  Oh,
dear!"

"Bad news?" asked Bess, softly.

"It's about my brother Jack," said Cora, and there was a sob in her
voice.  "He has suffered a nervous breakdown, and will have to leave
college at once!"



CHAPTER II

MORE NEWS


"Oh, Cora!" murmured Bess, rising from, the chair, and it was with no
easy effort that she did so, for she had allowed herself to sink back
again into its luxurious depths.  "Oh, Cora dear!  Isn't that perfectly
dreadful!"

Cora Kimball did not answer.  She was staring at the fateful
telegram, reading it over and over again; the words now meaningless
to her.  But she had grasped their import with the first swift
glance.  Jack was ill--in trouble.

Bess put her arms around her chum, and slipped one plump hand up on
the tresses tangled by the wind on the motor ride.

"Can I do anything to help--your mother is she--"

"Of course!" exclaimed Cora with a sigh.  "I must tell mother at
once.  Yes, she's at home, Bess.  Will you--do you mind coming with
me?"

"Of course not, my dear.  I wouldn't think of letting you go alone to
tell her.  Is the telegram from jack himself?"

"No, it's from Walter Pennington.  Walter says a letter
follows--special delivery."

"Oh, then you'll get it soon!  Perhaps it isn't so bad as you think.
Dear Walter is so good!"

"Isn't he?" agreed Cora, murmuringly.  "I sha'n't worry so much about
Jack, now that I know Wally is with him.  Oh, but if he has to leave
college--"

Cora did not finish.  Together she and Bess left the library, seeking
Mrs. Kimball, to impart to her the sudden and unwelcome news.  And
so, when there is a moment or two, during which nothing of
chronicling interest is taking place, my dear readers may be glad of
a little explanation regarding Cora Kimball and her chums, and also a
word or two concerning the previous books of this series.

Cora Kimball was the real leader of the motor girls.  She was, by
nature, destined for such a position, and the fact that she, of all
her chums, was the first to possess an automobile, added to her
prestige.  In the first volume of this series, entitled "The Motor
Girls," I had the pleasure of telling how, amid many other
adventures, Cora, and her chums, Bess and Belle Robinson, helped to
solve the mystery of a twenty thousand dollar loss.

Cora, Bess and Belle were real girl chums, but they never knew all,
the delights of chumship until they "went in" for motoring.  Living
in the New England town of Chelton, on the Chelton River, life had
been rather hum-drum, until the advent of the "gasoline gigs" as
Jack, Cora's brother, slangily dubbed them.  Jack, with whose
fortunes we shall concern ourselves at more length presently, had a
car of his own--one strictly limited to two--a low-slung red and
yellow racing car, "giddy and gaudy," Cora called it.

Later on, the Robinson twins also became possessed of an automobile,
and then followed many delightful trips.

"The Motor Girls on a Tour," the second volume of the series, tells
in detail of many surprising happenings, which were added to, and
augmented, at "Lookout Beach."

Through New England the girls went, after their rather strenuous
times at the seaside, and you may be sure Cora Kimball was in the
forefront of all the happenings on that rather remarkable run.

Perhaps the most romantic of all the occurrences that befell the
girls were the series at Cedar Lake.  There, indeed, were Cora and
her chums put to a supreme test, and that they emerged, tried and
true, will not be surprising news to those of you who really know the
motor maids.

As another summer followed the green spring, so adventures followed
our friends, and those on the coast were in no whit tamer than
previous happenings.  Once again did Cora prove that she could "do
things," if such proof were needed.

"The Motor Girls on Crystal Bay, Or The Secret of the Red Oar," is
the title of the book immediately preceding this one.

It would hardly be fair to tell you, bold-facedly, what the "secret"
was.  I would not like a book spoiled for me that way, and I am sure
you will agree with me.

But when Cora and her friends made the acquaintance of sad little
Freda Lewis, and later on of Denny Shane, the picturesque old
fisherman, they had the beginnings of the mysterious secret.  And in
solving it, they bested the land-sharpers, and came upon the real
knowledge of the value of the red oar.

Those incidents had taken place during the summer.  Autumn had come,
with its shorter days, its longer nights, the chill of approaching
frosts and winter, and the turning of leaves, and the girls I had
bidden farewell to the sad, salty sea waves, and had returned to
cheerful Chelton.

Cheerful Chelton--I believe I never thus alliteratively referred to
it before, but the sound falls well upon my ear.  Cheerful
Chelton--indeed it was so, and though Cora and her chums had enjoyed
themselves to the utmost at Crystal Bay and in so enjoying had done
it noble service still they were glad to get back.

And now--

I beg your pardon!  I really am forgetting, the boys, and as they
always have, and seem always destined to play in important part in
the lives of the girls, perhaps I had better introduce them in due
form.

To begin with, though not to end with, there was Cora's brother Jack.
Like all other girls' brothers was Jack--a tease at times, but of
sterling worth in hours of distress and trouble.

Jack was a junior at Exmouth College, but, bless you! that is not
nearly as important as it sounds, and none of my new readers need be
on their dignity; or assume false society manners with Jack.  For I
warn them, if they do, the thin veneer will very soon be scratched
off.  A true boy was Jack!

So was his chum, Walter Pennington--"Wally," the girls often called
him, though it was not at all an effeminate term of endearment.
Walter gave exactly the opposite impression from that.  Besides, he
was too athletic (which you could tell the moment you looked at him)
to further such associations.

Other young men there were, Ed Foster, in particular, who often went
motoring with the girls, to make the third male member which caused
the little parties to "come out even."

Occasionally Paul Hastings, and his sister Hazel, would be included,
but, of late, Paul had been too busy setting up an automobile
business of his own, to ride with his friends.

So much for the boys--though there were more of them, but we need not
concern ourselves with them at present.

Bess and Belle Robinson were the daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Perry
Robinson--the "rich"' Mr. Robinson, as he was called, to distinguish
him from another, and more humble, though none the less worthy,
citizen of Chelton.  Bess and Belle had nearly everything they
wanted--which list was not a small one.  But mostly they wanted Cora
Kimball, and they looked up to her, deferred to her and loved her,
with a devotion that comes only from sweet association since early
childhood.

"Cheerful Chelton!"  Somehow I cannot seem to forego the temptation
of using that expression again.  It was a typical New England
village, the nearness of it to New York not having spoiled it.

Of late, the invasion of many automobiles had threatened to turn it
into a "popular" resort.  There was already one garage, and another
in building, and to the trained and experienced motorist, no more
need be said.

It was to Chelton that Cora Kimball and her chums had returned,
following their summer at Crystal Bay.  Cora, after trying in vain to
get some of her chums, by telephone, to come for a little motor run
with her, had gone alone, coming back to find Best at her home, when
the events narrated in the initial chapter took place.

Now the two girls were on their way upstairs to impart the news
contained in the telegram, to Mrs. Kimball.

"Do you--do you think she'll faint?" asked Bess.

"No--of course not!  Mother isn't of the fainting sort," replied
Cora, for Mrs. Kimball, a widow since her boy and girl were little
children, was used to meeting emergencies bravely and calmly.

"I wonder what could have happened to Jack?" mused Bess, as they
reached the upper hall.  "Do you suppose he could have been hurt
playing football, Cora?"

"I don't see how.  The season hasn't really opened yet, and they play
only light games at first.  Besides, Jack has played before, and
knows how to take care of himself.  I can't imagine what it is--a
nervous breakdown."

"Probably Wally's letter will tell."

"I hope so.  Oh, but, Bess, I didn't hear your news.  You must tell
me all about it, my dear."

"I will--when this excitement is over."

Mrs. Kimball received the news calmly--that is, calmly after a first
sharp in-taking of breath and a spasmodic motion toward her heart.
For Jack was very dear to her.

"Well, my dears, we must hope for the best," she said, cheerfully, to
the girls. "Fortunately, his room is in order, which is more than can
be said for it when he went away.  Cora, can look up trains, or,
better still, ask the station agent when one might get in from
Exmouth.  Probably Walter will bring Jack home as soon as he can.

"It can't be so very serious, or Walter would have so specified in
his telegram.  I am anxious to get his letter, however.  You might
call up the post-office, Cora, and find out when the next mail gets
in.  Then you could go down in your car and get the special.  That
will be quicker than waiting for the boy to come up on his bicycle
with it.  Often he has half a dozen letters to deliver, and he might
be delayed coming to us."

"I'll do that, Mother.  You seem to think of everything!" and Cora
threw her arms about the neck of the gray-haired lady, in whose eyes
there was a troubled look, though neither in voice nor manner did she
betray it.

"I can't imagine Jack ill," murmured Bess.

"Nor I," said Cora.  "He has always been so strong and healthful.  If
only it isn't some accident--"

"Don't suggest it!" begged Bess.  "Shall I come with you to the
station, Cora?"

"I'd like to have you, dear, if you can spare the time."

"As if I wouldn't make time for such a thing as this.  Come, do your
telephoning, and we'll go."

Cora learned that no train which Jack could possibly get would arrive
until very late that afternoon, but at the post-office it was said a
mail would be in within the hour, and there was a chance that the
special delivery letter would be on it.

"We'll go and see," decided Cora, now again a girl of action.

"And on your way, Cora dear," requested her mother, "stop at Dr.
Blake's office, and ask him to meet the train Jack comes on.  While I
anticipate nothing serious, it is best to be on the safe side, and
Jack may be in a state of collapse after his trip.  You had better
explain to Dr. Blake, rather than telephone."

"Yes, mother.  Now are you sure you'll be all right?"

"Oh, certainly.  I am not alone, with the servants here.  Besides,
John is just outside, trimming the lawn paths.  You won't be long."

"No longer than we can help.  Come on, Bess.  Oh! and now you'll have
a chance to tell me what you started to."'

"Oh!  It isn't so much, Cora.  In fact, I don't like to mention my
pleasure, after hearing of your trouble."

"Then it's pleasure?"

"Yes, Belle seems to think so."

"Did you mention the West Indies?"

"Yes, father has to go to Porto Rico on business, and we are going to
make a winter cruise of it.  Mamma and we girls are going, and what I
came over to ask you--"

The voice of Bess was rather lost in the throb of the motor as Cora
thrust over the lever of the self-starter.  As the two girls settled
themselves in the seat, Bess resumed:

"I came over to ask if you couldn't go with us, Cora?  Can't you come
on a winter's cruise to where there is no snow or ice, and where the
waters are blue--so blue?"

"Come with you?" gasped Cora.

"Yes.  Papa and mamma specially asked me to come and invite you.  Oh,
Cora, do say you'll go!  It will be such fun!"

"I'd love to, Bess," said Cora, after a moment's thought.  "But
there's poor Jack, you know.  I shall probably have to stay home and
nurse him.  I can't leave mother all alone."

"Oh, Cora!" murmured Bess, in disappointed tones.



CHAPTER III

THE LACE SELLER


Cora, Bess and Belle were sitting on the broad, long porch of the
Kimball home.  It was the next day.  To be exact, the day following
the imparting of Cora's news to Bess, of her automobile mishaps, the
day of the news which Bess retailed to her friend and chum,
concerning the trip to the West Indies, and the still more news, if I
may be permitted the expression, of Jack's sudden illness.

Cora and Bess had gone to the post-office to get the expected special
delivery letter, stopping on their way to speak to Dr. Blake, who had
agreed to meet any train on which the stricken Jack might be
expected.  But, as it happened, his services were not required that
night, for Jack did not arrive.

To go back a little bit, from the point where we have left the three
girls sitting on the porch, Cora and Bess did find the special
delivery letter awaiting them in the post-office.

"And I'm glad you called for it," said Harry Moss, whose duty it was
to deliver the blue stamped epistles, "for I've got a lot of  'em
this afternoon, and your place is out of my route, Miss Cora."

"All right, Harry," spoke Cora, half-hearing. She was already tearing
open the envelope, as the messenger rode off on his wheel, certainly
at a pace to justify the old proverb that he was a rolling stone,
even if he had already gathered moss.

"Is it from Walter?" asked Bess.

"Yes, and it isn't as bad as we feared.  Jack over-trained, trying
for a new position on the football eleven, and that, with some extra
studies he undertook, reduced his already tingling nerves to a
condition where he was not at all himself."

"A long rest and a change will set him up again in fine style,"
Walter wrote.  "There is no need worrying, Cora," for he had written
to her, rather than to Mrs. Kimball, relying on Cora's discretion to
explain matters.

"I am bringing Jack home, and we'll come on the early afternoon
train, Thursday.  There is no great need of haste."

It was now Thursday, just after lunch, and the girls were waiting at
Cora's house to go down with her, or, rather one of them (to be
decided later) to meet Jack and Walter.  There was no need of a
physician to help Jack home, though Dr. Blake promised his services
when the sufferer should have been safely quartered in his own room.

"Isn't it good of Wally to come home with him?" ventured Belle,
thoughtfully gazing at her long, thin hands, that were still tanned
by the summer's sun.

"Perfectly fine!" exclaimed Cora.  "Oh, you can always depend on
Wally," and her eyes lightened up.

"So you can, too, on Jack, for that matter," voiced Bess, warmly.
Bess was, of late, generally regarded as having more than a mere
chum's sisterly feeling for Jack.

"I suppose he'll lose a term," remarked Belle.

"Too bad, I say."

"Better that than lose your health," declared Cora, as she put back a
strand of hair that would persist in straying out from under her cap,
for she, as well as the others, were attired for motoring, the
Robinson twins, in fact, having come over in their car.

"Oh, Cora!  I think you look so different with your hair in that new
close formation!"  declared Bess.  "I wish I could get mine to lie
down flat at the sides, and over my ears.  How do you do it?"

"Whisper--it's a secret," said Cora, smiling.  "I found a new kind of
hairpin when I was shopping the other day."

"Oh, do show us!" begged Belle.  "I was going to have the permanent
wave put in mine, but it costs twenty-five dollars, and it's awfully
tiring, Hazel said.  Besides, I think it's getting rather--common."

"Do show us, Cora!" begged Bess.

"Come inside.  I'm not going to turn the porch into a hair-dressing
parlor for demonstrations," laughed Cora.  "It won't take a minute to
show you how to do I it, and we have plenty of time before Jack's
train is due."

Cora obligingly let down her pretty hair, and then, by means of the
new hairpins, she put it up again, in the latest "flat" mode, which,
with its rather severe lines, is far from becoming to the average
face.  But, as it happened, Cora's face was not the average, and the
different style was distinctly becoming to her.

"Oh, isn't it simple--when you're shown?" cried Bess.  "I wonder if
I'd have time to do mine that way before--?"

"Before Wally sees you!" interrupted her sister.  "No, and don't
think it.  He's probably seen plenty of that style at college, and--"

"Thank you!  I wasn't thinking of Mr. Pennington!" and Bess tried to
tilt her chin up in the air with an assumption of dignity that ill
sat upon her, the said chin being of the plump variety which lends
itself but poorly to the said tilting.

"Cora, are you there?" asked the voice of Mrs. Kimball from the
porch.

"Yes, Mother.  I was just showing the girls the new hairpins.  We are
going to the station directly."

Cora's voice floated out of the low French windows, which opened from
the library to the porch, and they were swung wide, for the fall tang
in the air had vanished with the rising of the orb of day, and it was
now warm and balmy.

"It will be even warmer than this when we go to the West Indies,"
murmured Bess.  "Oh, Cora, I do wish you were going!"

"So do I, dear!  But I don't see how I can."

"Hark!" said Belle, softly.

A murmur of voices came from the porch through the low, opened
windows.

"It's one of those Armenian lace peddlers,"' said Cora, stooping down
to look as she finished making the twist at the back of her head.
"There's been a perfect swarm of them around lately.  Mother is
talking to her, though she seldom cares for lace--such as they sell."

"There is some beautiful lace work to be had on some of the West
Indian islands, so mamma says," spoke Belle.  "I am just crazy to get
there!"

"Are you going to spend all your time on Porto Rico?" asked Cora, as
she finished her hair.

"Well, most of it, though we shall probably cruise about some," spoke
Bess, and as she paused the murmuring of the voices of Mrs. Kimball
and the lace peddler could be heard.

"She doesn't talk like an Armenian," ventured Belle.  "She has a
Spanish accent."

"Yes, so she has," agreed Cora.  "Oh, girls!  You don't know how I
envy you that trip.  But duty first, you know," and she sighed.

"We expect to have a perfectly gorgeous time," went on Belle, as she
settled her trim jacket more snugly over her slim hips.  "One trip
papa has promised us is to Sea Horse Island, not far from Porto Rico.
He is going there after orchids--you know he is an enthusiastic
amateur collector--and he says some very rare ones grow on Sea Horse.
I wish I could send you some, Cora."

"It's awfully sweet of you, but--"

The girls were interrupted by the darkening of one of the low
windows, by a tall, slim shadow.  In surprise they looked up to see
staring at them a girl whose swarthy, olive-tinted face proclaimed
her for a foreigner from some sunny clime.

In her hand she field a bundle of lace, which she had evidently taken
from her valise to show to Mrs. Kimball.  Cora's mother had arisen
from a porch chair, in some wonder, to follow the girl's movements.

"Pardon Senoritas," began the lace seller, in soft accents, "but did
I hear one of you ladies mention Sea Horse Island--in ze West Indies?
I am not sure--I--"

She paused, painfully self-conscious.

"I spoke of it," said Belle, gently.  "We are going there on a winter
cruise, and--"

"Pardon me--but to Sea Horse Island?" and the girl's trembling voice
seemed very eager.

"We are going there--among other places," put in Bess, and her voice
grew rather colder than her sister's, for the manner of the lace
seller was passing strange.

"--Oh, to Sea Horse Island--in ze West Indies--Oh, if I could but go
zere--my father--he is--he is, oh, Senoritas, I crave your pardon,
but---but--"

Her voice trailed off in a whisper, and swaying, she fell at the feet
of Cora, who sprang forward, but too late, to catch the slim,
inanimate burden.  The little lace peddler lay in a crumpled up heap
on the floor.



CHAPTER IV

JACK ARRIVES


"Oh, Cora!"

"The poor girl!"

Belle and Bess, with clasped hands, bent over the prostrate form of
the girl, whose plain, black dress showed the dust and travel stains
of the highways about Chelton.  From the verandah Mrs. Kimball stepped
in, through the long window.

"Get some water, Cora," she directed in a calm and self-possessed
voice.  "Also the aromatic ammonia on my dressing table.  It is
merely a faint.  Poor girl!  She seemed very weak while she was
talking to me.  I was just going to ask her to sit down, and let me
have a cup of tea brought to her, when she suddenly turned away from
me and came in where you girls were."

"She heard us talking," ventured Bess, a little awed by the strange
happening.

"And she asked the oddest question--about Sea Horse Island--where
papa is going--and she spoke of her father--I wonder what she meant?"
asked Belle.

"Time enough to find out after we've revived her," suggested Cora,
who, like her mother, was not at all alarmed by a mere fainting fit.

Belle, inspired by her chum's coolness, had stooped over and was
raising the girl's head.

"Don't do that!" exclaimed Cora.  "The trouble is all the blood has
gone from her head now.  Let it remain low and the circulation will
become normal, after the has had a little stimulant.  I'll get the
ammonia," and she hurried off, stopping long enough to ring for her
mother's maid.

The foreign girl opened her dark brown eyes under the reviving
stimulus of the aromatic spirits of ammonia, and she tried to speak.
She seemed anxious to apologize for the trouble she had caused by
fainting.

"That's all right, my dear," said Mrs. Kimball, soothingly.  "Don't
bother your poor head about it.  You may stay here until you feel
better."

"But, senora--" she protested, faintly.

"Hush!" begged Cora, touching the girl's hand gently with her own
brown fingers.  It was a pretty little hand, that of the lace
seller--a hand not at all roughened by heavy work.  Indeed, if she
had made some of the dainty lace she was exhibiting, a piece of which
was even now entangled about her, she needs must keep both hands
unroughened.

"Oh, but Senorita, I--I am of ze ashamed to be so--to be--"  Again
her voice trailed off into that mere faintness, which was as weak as
a whisper, yet unlike it.

"Now, not another word!" insisted Mrs. Kimball, in the tone of her
daughter, and the Robinson twins well knew she meant to have her own
good way.  "You are in our hands, my dear child, and until you are
able to leave them, you must do as we say.  A little more of that
ammonia, Cora, and then have Janet bring in some warm bouillon--not
too hot.  I believe the poor child is just weak from hunger," she
whispered over the head of the lace seller, whose brown eyes were now
veiled with the olive lids.

"Oh!" gasped Bess.  "Hungry!"

"Hush!  She'll hear you," cautioned Belle, for somehow she sensed the
proudness of those who, though they toil hard for their daily bread,
yet have even greater pride than those who might, if they wished, eat
from golden dishes--the pride of the poor who are ashamed to have it
known that they hunger--and there is no more pitiful pride.

The girl did not show signs of sensing anything of that which went on
around her.  Even when the second spoonful of ammonia had trickled
through her trembling lips, she did not again open her eyes.

"Here is the bouillon," said Janet, as she came in with some in a
dainty cup, on a servette.

"We must try to get her to take a little," said Mrs. Kimball, who had
her arm under the girl's neck.  A dusky flush in the olive cheeks
told of the returning blood, under the whip of the biting ammonia.

Some few sips of the hot broth the girl was able to take, but she did
not show much life, and, after a close look at her immobile
countenance, and feeling of the cold and listless hands, Cora's
mother said:

"I think we had better put her to bed, and have Dr. Blake look at her
when he comes for Jack."

"Oh, Jack!  I had almost forgotten about him!" exclaimed Cora.  "We
must go to the depot.  It is almost time for his train."

"You have time enough to help me," said her mother, gently.  "I think
we must look after her, Cora, at least--"

"Oh, of course, Mother.  We can't send her to the hospital,
especially when she seems so refined.  She is really--clean!" and Cora
said the word with a true delight in its meaning.  She had seen so
many itinerant hawkers of lace who were not and neither were their
wares.

"Oh, she has such a sweet, sweet face," murmured Belle, who was fair,
and who had always longed to be dark.

"Is there a bed ready," Janet asked Mrs. Kimball.

"Yes, Madam, in the blue room."  The Kimball family had a habit of
distinguishing chambers by the color of the wall papers.

"That will do.  We'll take her there.  I think a little rest and food
is all she needs.  She looks as though she had walked far to-day."

A glance at the worn and dusty shoes confirmed this.

"Can we carry her, or shall I call John?" asked Cora, referring to
the one man of all work, who kept the Kimball place in order.

"Oh, I think we can manage," said her mother.  "She is not heavy."

It was not until Cora and her mother lifted the girl, that they
realized what a frail burden she was in their arms.

"She's only a girl, yet she has the face of a woman, and with traces
of a woman's troubles," whispered Belle, as Cora and Mrs. Kimball,
preceded by Janet to hold aside the draperies, left the room.

"Yes.  And I wonder what she meant by speaking of her father and Sea
Horse Island in the way she did?" spoke Bess.  "It sounds almost like
a mystery!"

"Oh, you and your mysteries!" scoffed Belle.  "You'd scent one, if an
Italian organ grinder stopped in front of the house, looked up at
your window, and played the Miserere."

"I might give him something to eat, anyhow," snapped Bess--that is,
as nearly as Bess ever came to snapping, for she was so well
"padded," both in mariners and by nature, that she was too much like
a mental sofa cushion to hurt even the feelings of any one.

Cora came down presently, announcing:

"She is better now.  She took a little of the bouillon, but she is
very weak.  Mother insists on her staying in bed.  She really seems a
very decent sort of a person--the girl, I mean," added Cora quickly,
with a little laugh.  "She was so afraid of giving trouble."

"Did she tell anything of herself?" asked Bess.

"She tried to, but mother would not hear of it until she is stronger.
I really think the poor thing was starving.  She can't make much of a
living selling lace, though some of it is very beautiful," and Cora
picked up from the library door the length that had dropped from the
girl's hand.

"Wasn't it strange--that she should come in and seem so worked-up
over the mention of Sea Horse Island?" spoke Belle.

"It was," admitted Cora.  "We shall have to find out about it
later--she was on the verge of telling us, when she fainted.  But,
girls, if I am to go get Jack, it's time I started.  Are you coming?"

"Suppose we go in our car," suggested Bess.

"You may want all the room you have to spare in yours, Cora, to bring
back some of his luggage.  And perhaps some of the boys besides
Walter may come on from Exmouth with Jack.  In that case--"'

"Exactly!" laughed Cora.  "And if they do you want to be in a
position to offer them your hospitality.  Oh, Bess!  And I thought
you would be true to Jack; especially when he is so ill!"

"Cora Kimball!  I'll--" but Bess, her face flaming scarlet, found no
words to express her, at least pretended, indignation.  "Come on,
Belle," she cried.  "We won't let a boy or young man ride in our car,
not even if they beg us!"

"Oh, I didn't mean anything!" said Cora, contritely.  But Bess
simulated indignation.

The throb of motors soon told that the three girls were on their way.
Cora in her powerful car, and the twins in their new one, both
heading for the railroad station, though the train was not due yet
for nearly half an hour, and the run would not take more than ten
minutes.

"I wonder if Walter will stay on for a few days?" asked Belle of
Bess, who was steering.

"I should think so--yes.  He'll probably want to see how Jack stands
the trip.  Poor Jack!"

"Isn't it too bad?"

"Yes, and that reminds me.  I wonder if he couldn't--"

"Look out, for that dog!" fairly screamed Bess, as one rushed barking
from a house yard.  It was only instinctive screaming on the part of
Bess, for it was she herself who "looked-out," to the extent of
steering to one side, and so sharply that Belle gasped.  And, even at
that, the dog was struck a glancing blow by the wheel and with barks
changed to yelps of pain, ran, retreating into the yard whence he had
come, limping on three feet.

"Serves him right--for trying to bite a hole in our tires," murmured
Bess, with a show of indignation.

A slatternly woman, who had come to the door of the tumble-down house
at the sound of the dog's yelps, poured out a volume of vituperation
at the girls, most of it, fortunately, being lost in the chugging of
the motor.

Three or four other curs came out from various hiding places to
commiserate with their fellow, and the girls left behind them a weird
canine chorus.

"Curious, isn't it?" observed Belle, "that the poorer the people
seem, the more dogs they keep."

"What were we talking of?"

"Perhaps misery loves company," quoted Bess.

"Jack?" suggested her sister.

"No, Walter," corrected the other, and they laughed.

"What's the joke?" asked Cora, who had slowed up her car to await the
on-coming of her chums.  "Did you try to see how near you could miss
a dog?"

"Something like that, yes," answered Bess, as she related the
occurrence.

There was a period of rather tedious waiting at the station, before a
whistle was heard, announcing the approach of some train.

"There it is!" cried Cora, as she jumped from her car to go to the
platform.

It was only a freight engine, and the girls were disappointed.  But,
a few minutes later, the express sounded its blast, and, amid a whirl
of dust, and a nerve-racking screech of brakes, drew into the depot.

"There's Jack!" cried Bess, grasping Cora's shoulder, and directing
her gaze to a certain Pullman platform.

"And Walter's right behind him!" added Belle.  "Why, he isn't
carrying Jack!"

"You goose!  Jack isn't as ill as all that!" laughed Cora, a bit
hysterically.  "Oh, Jack!" she called, waving her handkerchief.

"And there's Harry Ward!" murmured Belle.

"I didn't know he was coming, and, instinctively, her hands went to
her hair.  For Harry, whom Belle had met during the summer, had paid
rather marked attention to her--marked even for a summer
acquaintance.

"Hello, Sis!" greeted Jack, as he came slowly forward--and in his
very slowness Cora read the story of his illness, slight though it
was.  "It was awfully good of you to come down," he added, as he
brushed her cheek in a strictly brotherly kiss.

"My!  Look at the welcoming delegation!" scoffed Walter.  "I say,
fellows, are there any cinders on my necktie?" and he pretended to be
very much exercised.

"Oh, it's a sight!" mocked Belle.  "Isn't it, girls?  How are you,
Jack?" she asked, more warmly, as she shook hands.  "Oh!  Don't you
dare--not on this platform!" she cried, as Jack leaned forward, with
the evident intention of repeating his oscillatory greeting to Cora.

"All right.  Come on around back, I'd just as soon," offered Jack,
with something of his old, joking manner.  "They can't see us there."

"I guess you know Harry--all of you--don't you?" put in Walter.

"Oh, yes, forgetting my manners, as usual," laughed Jack, but there
was little of mirth in the sound.  "Harry, the girls--the
girls--Harry.  Pleased to meet you--and all that.  Come on, Cora.  I
guess I'm--tired."

His eyes showed it.  Poor Jack was not at all himself.

"But how did it happen--what's the matter?" asked Cora.  "Were you
suddenly stricken?"

"About like that--yes," admitted Jack.  "Trying to do too much, the
doc said.  I oughtn't to have made an effort for the double
literature.  Thought I'd save a term on it.  But that, and training
too hard, did me up.  It's a shame, too, for we have a peach of an
eleven!"

"I know, Jack, it is too bad," said Cora, sympathetically.

"Oh, it isn't that I'm actually a non-combatant, Sis, but I've lost
my nerve, and what I have left is frayed to a frazzle.  I've just got
to do nothing but look handsome for the next three months."

"It's a good time to look that way," ventured Bess.

"Look how?" asked Jack.

"Handsome.  Tell me about the pretty stranger, Cora."

"What's that?" cried Walter, crowding up.  "Handsome stranger?
Remember, boys, I saw her first!"

"She means the lace seller," said Belle, languidly.

"Tell you later," Cora promised.



CHAPTER V

INEZ


They were at the autos, standing near the edge of the depot platform
now.  The porter had set down the grips of the boys, and had departed
with that touching of the cap, and the expansive smile, which
betokens a fifty-cent tip.  They do not touch the cap for a quarter
any more.

"How'll we piece out?" asked Jack, and his tone was listless.  "Who
goes with whom?"

His voice was so different from his usual joking, teasing, snapping
tones that Cora looked at him again.  Yes, her brother was certainly
ill, though outwardly it showed only in a thinness of the bronzed
cheeks, and a dull, sunken look in the eyes.  A desperately tired
look, which comes only from mental weariness.

"You'd better ride with me, Jack," his sister said.  "The car has
more room."

"Walter can come with us," suggested Jack.  "I've been sort of
leaning on him in the train, and it eases me.  So if--"

"Of course!" interrupted Cora quickly, and Walter, hearing his name
spoken, came hurrying up, from where he had stood joking and talking
with the Robinson twins at their car.

"On the job, Jack, old man!" he exclaimed.  "Want me to hold your
hand some more?"

"Wrenched my side a little at football," Jack explained to his
sister.  "It sort of eases it to lean against some one.  The porter
wanted to get me a pillow, but I'm not an old lady yet--not with Wally
around."

"Harry, think you'll be safe with two of them?" asked Walter, as he
nodded at Bess and Belle.

"Oh, sure," he answered with a laugh.  "If they promise not to rock
the boat."

"Perhaps he thinks we can't drive?" suggested Belle, mockingly.

"Far be it from me to so assume!" said Harry, bowing with his hand on
his right side, and then quickly transferring it, after the manner of
some stage comedian.  "I'd go anywhere with you!" he affirmed.

"Don't be rash!" called Jack, who had taken his place in the tonneau
of Cora's car.  "Come on, Walter.  Leave him to his own destruction.
But, I say, Cora, what's this about some new girl?  Has a pretty
arrival struck town?  If there has, I'm glad I came home."

"It's just a poor Armenian lace peddler, who fainted from lack of
food as she was talking to mother," Cora explained.

"She isn't Armenian--she's Spanish, I'm sure of it," declared Belle,
for the cars had not yet started.

"Well, Spanish then," admitted Cora.

"And she's so pretty!" put in Bess.

"Pretty!  I suppose you'll be at home this evening, Jack, old chap?"
asked Walter, pretending to straighten his tie, and arrange his hair.

"Is her name Carmencita or Marita?" he asked.

"We don't know, yet," Cora informed him.  "The poor child wasn't able
to tell us much about herself."

"Child!" exclaimed Jack.  "Oh, then she's a little girl!  The Mater
always was great on infant classes."

"Wait until you see," advised Belle, loftily.

"You make me very curious!" mocked the invalided young man.  "Drive
on, Cora, and let's get the suspense over with."

Walter slipped in beside his chum, and put his arm about Jack's
waist, for the wrench given Jack's side in a football scrimmage was
far from healed, and often pained him severely.  It was this direct
cause, as much as anything else, that had pulled him down.

On the way to the Kimball home, Cora driving slowly and with careful
regard for Jack's weakness, the sufferer told how he had "keeled
over" in a faint, while playing the last half of a hard game, and how
the team physician had insisted on his being sent home.

"And the boys very kindly offered to come with me," ended Jack.

"It's very good of them to spare the time," said Cora, with a
decidedly grateful look at Walter.

"As if we wouldn't!" he said, half indignantly.

And so the cars rolled on until they turned in at the gateway of the
Kimball home.

"Is she any better, Mother?" asked Cora, when Jack's mother had
kissed him, and held him off at arms' length to get a better look at
him.

"Who, Cora?  Oh, Inez Ralcanto?  Yes, she is much better.  A good
meal was her most pressing need."

"Inez!" murmured Jack.  "Charming name.  Lead me to Inez!"

"Jack!" cried Cora, in shocked accents.

His mother only smiled.  It sounded like the Jack of old, and she was
hopefully feeling that he was not as ill as she had been led to fear.

"Did she say anything about herself?" asked Bess, who with Belle and
Harry had now come in.

"Yes, she told me her story, and I think she is anxious to repeat it
to you girls," said Mrs. Kimball, looking at the Robinson twins.

"Us?"' cried Belle.  "Why us in particular?"

"I don't know, but she said one of you had mentioned something about
a West Indian Island--"

"Sea Horse," explained Bess, in a low voice.

"That's it--such an odd name," went on Mrs. Kimball.  "And she is
anxious to know more about your plan of going there.  I could not
tell her--having heard only the vaguest rumors about your trip, my
dears."

"Yes, we are going there--or, at least, father expects to get some
orchids there when we are in the West Indies," explained Bess.  "But
we really know nothing about the island."

"There seems to be some sort of mystery," put in Belle.  "Just before
she fainted, she spoke of her father.  Is her name Inez, Mrs.
Kimball?"

"Yes, Inez Ralcanto.  She is a Spaniard.  But I had rather let her
tell you herself, as she is anxious to do.  As soon as yow are
rested--"

"Oh, we're not tired!" interrupted Walter.  "That is, unless Jack
feels--"

"Oh, never too tired to listen to a pretty girl--especially when she
is called Inez," broke in the invalided hero.  "Still, perhaps Sis
and the twins had better have a first whack at her.  I fancy we
fellows would look better with some of the car grime removed," and he
sank rather wearily into a chair.

"You poor boy!  You are tired!" expostulated his mother, as she put
her arms about him.  "You had better go to your room, and lie down.
We'll have a light dinner served soon.  You'll stay, of course," and
she included the Robinson twins as well as Walter and Harry in her
invitation.

"Oh, I don't know," spoke Harry, diffidently.  He had not known the
"Cheerful Chelton Crowd" as long as had Walter.  "Perhaps I'd better
put up at the hotel--"

"You'll do nothing of the sort!" broke in Jack.  "You and Wally will
bunk in here.  You forget Inez is due to give a rehearsal of the
'Prisoner of Sea Horse Island,' and you want to be here."

"Don't joke, Jack!  This may be serious," said Cora, in a low voice.

"Don't worry, Sis!  I feel very far from joking," and Jack put his
hand to his head with a weary gesture.

"You must go and lie down," his mother said.  "Dr. Blake is coming,
and wants to see you.  I am also going to have him for Inez.  Cora,
if you'll show Walter and Mr. Ward--"'

"Please call me Harry!" he pleaded.

"Harry then," and she smiled.  "Show them to their rooms--you know,
the ones next to Jack's room.  Then you girls can come up and see our
little stranger."

Cora, with her brother and his guests, went up stairs, but soon came
down, her face flaming.

"What's the matter?" asked Belle.

"Oh, Jack!  I don't believe he's ill at all!" she stormed.  "It's
only an excuse to escape college."

"What did he do?" asked Bess, slyly.

"Said Walter and Harry might--kiss me!" and Cora's face flushed.

"And--er--did they?" asked Belle.

"Belle Robinson!  If you--well!" and Cora closed her lips in a firm
line.

Her mother smiled.

"Perhaps we had better go up and see Inez," suggested Mrs. Kimball.

"Yes, do!" urged Cora, eager to change the subject.

The lace seller was sitting up in bed, and the white lounging gown
that had been put on her, in exchange for her simple black dress,
made her seem the real Spaniard, with her deep, olive complexion.
She smiled at the sight of the girls.

"Pardon, Senoritas!" she murmured, as Cora and her chums entered the
room.  "I am so sorry that I give you ze trouble.  It is too bad--I
am confused at my poor weakness.  But I--I--"

"You needn't apologize one bit!" burst out Cora, generously.  "I'm
sure you need the rest."

"Yes, Senorita, I was weary--so very weary.  It is good--to rest."

"I think you had better have a little more broth," suggested Mrs.
Kimball.  "Then Dr. Blake will be here, and can say whether it would
be wise to give you something more solid.  You must have been quite
hungry," she added, gently.

"I--I was, Senora--very hungry," and taking the hand of Mrs. Kimball
in her own thin, brown one, the girl imprinted a warm kiss on it.

"Do you feel well enough to talk?" asked Cora.  "These are my
friends.  They expect to go to Sea Horse Island soon.  You mentioned
that, just before you fainted, and--"

"Yes, Senorita, I did.  Oh! if I could find someone to take me zere--I
would do anyzing! I would serve zem all, my life--I would work my
fingers to ze bare bones--I would--"

A flood of emotion seemed to choke her words.

"We'll help you all we can," interrupted Cora.  "Why are you so
anxious to go there?"

"Because my father--my dear father--he is prisoner zere, and if I go
zere, I can free him!" and the girl clasped her hands in an appealing
gesture.



CHAPTER VI

THE MYSTERIOUS MAN


For a moment Cora and the Robinson twins looked alternately at one
another, and then at the figure of the frail girl on the bed.  She
seemed to be weeping, but when she took her hands down from her eyes,
there was no trace of tears in them--only a wild, and rather haunting
look in her face.

"Is she--do you think she is raving--a little out of her mind?"
whispered Belle.

"Hush!" cautioned Cora, but Inez did not seem to have heard.

"I pray your pardon--I should not inflict my emotions on you thus,"
the lace seller said, with a pretty foreign accent.  Only now and
then did she mispronounce words--occasionally those with the hard (to
her) "th" sound.

"We shall be only too glad to help you," said Cora, gently.

"I do not know zat you can help me, Senorita," the girl murmured,
"and yet I need help--so much."

She was silent a moment, as though trying to think of the most simple
manner in which to tell her story.

"You said your father was a--a prisoner," hesitated Bess, gently.
"Did he--"

"He did nozing, Senorita!" burst out the girl.  "He was thrown into a
vile prison for what you call 'politics.'  Yet in our country
politics are not what zey are here--so open, with all ze papairs
printing so much about zem.  Spanish politics are more in ze
dark--what you call under the hand."

She seemed uncertain whether she had used the right word.

"Underhanded--yes," encouraged Cora, with a smile.

"He had enemies," proceeded the girl.  "Oh, zose politic--zose
intrigues--I know nozzing of zem--but zey are terrible!"  She spread
her hands before her face with a natural, tragic gesture.

"But I must not tire you, Senoritas," she resumed.  "My father, he
was arrested on ze political charges.  We lived on Sea Horse
Island-L, it is a Spanish possession of ze West Indies.  We were
happy zere (it is one grand, beautiful place).  Ze waters of ze bay
are so blue--so blue--ah!"

She seemed lost in a flood of happy memories, and then, as swiftly,
she apologized for giving away to her feelings.

"I should not tire you," she said.

"Oh, but we just love to hear about it," said Belle, eagerly.  "We
are going there--to waters blue--"

"That I might go wiz you--but no, it is impossible!" the lace seller
sighed.

"Tell us your story--perhaps we can help you," suggested Cora.

"I will make for you as little weariness as I can, Senoritas; and,
believe me, I am truly grateful to you," she said.  "I do not even
dare dream zat I could go to my father," sighed Inez, "but perhaps
you will be of so great kindness as to take him a message from me.  I
cannot mail it--he is not allowed to receive letters zat are not
read, and we have no secret cipher we might use."

"If we can get a letter to him, rest assured we shall do so,"
promised Belle, though her sister rather raised her eyebrows at the
rashness of the pledge.

"I cannot go into all ze details of ze politics, for I know zem not,"
went on the Spaniard.  "All I painfully know is zat my father was
thrown into prison, and our family and home broken up.  My mother and
I came to New York--to relatives, but alas! my poor mother died.  I
was left alone.  I was desolate.

"I had learned to make lace, and my friends thought I could sell it,
so I began to make zat my trade.  I thought I could save enough to go
back to my father, and the beloved island--perhaps to free him."

"How did you hope to do that?" asked Cora.

"Because, in New York, I found one of his political party--himself an
exile, who gave me what you call documents--I know not ze term--"

"Evidence?" suggested Belle.

"Zat is it.  Evidence!  I have evidence, zat would free my father, if
I could get it to him.  But I fear to send it by mail, for it would
be taken--captured by his enemies."

"It's rather complicated--isn't it?" suggested Cora.

"Yes, Senorita--more so even zan I am telling you.  Of myself I know
but little, save zat if I can get ze certain papairs to my father, he
might go free.  But how am I to go to Sea Horse Island, when I have
not even money to buy me food to keep from starving?  I ask you--how
can I?  And yet I should not trouble you wiz my troubles, Senoritas."

"Oh, but we want to help you!" declared Cora, warmly.

"Surely," added Belle.  "Perhaps I had better speak to my father.  He
may know of someone on Sea Horse Island, where he is going to gather
orchids."

"No, no, Senorita!  If you please--not to speak yet!" broke in the
Spanish girl suddenly.  "It must be a secret--yet.  I have enemies
even here."

"Enemies?" echoed Cora.

"Yes.  Zey followed me from New York.  Listen, I haf not yet tell you
all.  I make ze lace in New York, but it so big a city--and so many
lace sellers--not of my country.  It is hard for me to make even a
pittance.  Some of my friends, zey say to go out in ze country.  So I
go.  But I weary you--yes?" and with a quick, bird-like glance she
asked the question.

"Oh, no, indeed!" answered Cora.  Then the girl told of traveling out
of New York City, into the surrounding towns, plying her humble
calling.  She made a bare living, that was all, dwelling in the
cheapest places, and subsisting on the coarsest food in order to save
her money for her father's cause.  Then came a sad day when she was
robbed--in one of her, stopping places, of her little horde.  She
told of it with tears in her eyes.

"The poor girl!" murmured Bess, with an instinctive movement toward
her pretty, silver purse.

Inez Ralcanto, for such she said was her name, her father being Senor
Rafael Ralcanto, was heartbroken and well nigh discouraged at her
loss.  But to live she must continue, and so she did.  She made
barely enough to live on, by selling her laces, and since reaching
Chelton the day-before, she had not sold a penny's worth.  Her money
was exhausted, and she was nearly on the verge of fainting when she
applied at the Kimball home.  Cora's mother had seemed interested in
the lace, which really was beautifully worked, and while showing it
on the porch, the girl had overheard the mention of her home island.
The rest is known to the reader.

"And so I am so silly as to faint!" said Inez, with a little tinkling
laugh.  "But I faint in good hands--I am so grateful to you!" she
went on, warmly, her olive checks flushing.

"And you want to go to Sea Horse Island?" asked Belle.

"I want--Oh! so much, Senorita.  But I know it is a vain hope.  But
you are good and kind.  If you could take zese papairs wiz you--and
manage to get zem to my father--he could tell you how to help him.
For it is all politics--he had committed no--what you call crime--not
a soul has he wronged.  Oh, my poor father!"

"And these papers?" asked Cora.  "'What are they?"

"I know not, Senorita.  I am not versed in such zings.  A fellow
patriot of my father gave them to me."

"Have you them with you?" asked Bess.

The girl started up in bed, and clutched at her breast.  A wild look
came over her face.

"I had zem in New York--I bring zem away wiz me.  Zat man--he is ze
enemy of my father and his party.  He know I have zem, and he try to
entrap me.  But I am too--what you call foxy, for him!  I slip
through his fingernails.  Ze papairs--in my valise--Oh, where is it?
I--when I faint--I have it at my feet--"

"It was on the porch!" exclaimed Mrs. Kimball.  "I forgot all about
it in the excitement.  It was full of lace--Oh, if some one has taken
it!"

"And my papairs--zat could free my father!" cried the girl.

A shout came from the front of the house.

"That's Walter's voice!" exclaimed Cora, starting up.

"Here, drop that satchel!" came the call.

The girls swept to the window in time to see a small man running down
the drive, closely pursued by Walter Pennington.  And, as the man
fled, he dropped a valise from which trailed a length of lace.  The
girl, Inez, caught a reflection of the scene in a mirror of the
bedroom.

"Zat is him--ze mysterious man!" she cried.

"Oh, if he has taken my papairs!" and she seemed about to leap from
the bed.



CHAPTER VII

NEW PLANS


"You mustn't do that!" cried Cora.  "Hold her, girls!"

"But ze man--my papairs!" fairly screamed the Spanish visitor.

"He has nothing--Walter is after him--he doesn't seem to have taken
anything," said Belle, soothingly, as Mrs. Kimball pressed back on
the pillow the frail form of the eager girl.  Inez struggled for a
moment, and then lay quiet.

But she murmured, over and over again:

"Oh, if he has--if he has--my father--he may never see ze outside of
ze prison again!"

"We will help you," said Cora's mother, softly.  "If there has been a
robbery, the authorities shall be notified.  I will have one of the
girls inquire.  You say Walter is down there, Belle?"

"Yes, and a man is running off down the road.  I'll go see what it
all means."

"I wish you would, please."

The eager gaze of Inez followed Belle as she left the room.  The
little excitement had proved rather good, than otherwise, for the
patient, for there was a glow and flush to her dusky cheeks and her
eyes had lost that dull, hopeless look of combined hunger and fear.

Quiet now reigned in the little chamber where the lace seller had
been given such a haven of rest.

"What's it all about, Wally?" asked Belle, as she encountered the
chum of Cora's brother, who was coming up the side steps bearing a
black valise, from which streamed lengths of lace.

"Some enterprising beggar tried to make off with this valise," he
said.  "I had come down from Jack's room, and was sitting in the
library, when I saw him sneak up on the porch, and try to get away
with it.  He dropped it like a hot potato when I sang out to him.
But whose is it?  Doesn't look like the one Cora uses when she goes
off for a week-end, that is, unless you girls have taken to wearing
more lace on your dresses than you used to."

"It belongs to the lace seller--Inez--you know, the one we spoke of,"
said Belle.  "She's here--in a sort of collapse from hunger.  And she
has told the strangest story--all about a political crime--her father
in prison--secret papers and a mysterious man after them."

"Good!" cried Waker, with a short laugh.  "I seem to have fitted in
just right to foil the villain in getting the papers.  Say, better
not let Jack know about this, or he'll be on the job, too, and what he
needs just now is a rest--eh, Harry?"

"That's it," agreed the other college youth, whom Belle had not
noticed since coming down stairs in such haste.

"Wally robbed me of the honors," complained Harry.  "I was just going
to make after the fellow."

"And was he really going to steal the papers?" asked Belle.

"I don't know as to that," Walter answered.

"I don't know anything about any papers.  But Harry and I were
sitting here, after seeing that Jack was comfortable in his room,
waiting for the doctor, when I heard someone come up the steps.  At
first I thought it was Dr. Blake himself but when the footsteps
became softer, and more stealthy, as the novels have it, I took a
quiet observation.

"Then I saw this Italian-looking chap reaching for the valise.  I let
out a yell, went after him and he dropped it.  Ahem!  Nothing like
having a first-class hero in the family!" and Walter swelled out his
chest, and looked important.

"Better find out, first, whether you saved the papers, or just the
empty valise," suggested Harry, with a smile.  "Such things have been
known to happen, you know."

"That's right!" admitted Walter.  "Guess I had better look," and he
was proceeding to open a valise when Belle hastily took it from him.

"You mustn't!" she exclaimed.  "It isn't ours, and poor little Inez
may not like it.  Leave it up to her and she can tell if anything is
missing."

"Just tell that I saved it for her--I, Walter Pennington!" begged the
owner of that name.  "Nothing like making a good impression, from the
start, on the pretty stranger," he added.  "Eh?"

"Just my luck!" murmured Harry, with a tragic air.

"Oh, you silly boys!" laughed Belle.  She hastened up the stairs to
the room where Inez as resting, the lace trailing from the
half-opened valise.

"Oh, you have it back--my satchel!" gasped a Spanish girl.  "Oh, if
ze papairs are only safe!"

They were, evidently, for she gave utterance a sigh of relief when
she drew a bundle of crackling documents from a side pocket of the
valise, under a pile of filmy lace, at the sight of which Cora and
the girls uttered exclamations of delight.  Inez heard them.

"Take it--take it all!" she begged of them, thrusting into Mrs.
Kimball's hands a mass of the beautiful cob-webby stuff.  "It is all
yours, and too little for what you have done for me!"

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Cora's mother.  "This lace is beautiful.  I
shall be glad to purchase some of it, and pay you well for it--I
can't get that kind in the stores.  You didn't show me this at
first."

"No, Senora, I was too tired.  But it is all yours.  I care not for
it, now zat I have ze papairs safe.  Zey are for my father!"

"Do you really think some man was trying to get them?" asked Cora.

"Oh, yes, Senorita," was the serious answer.

"There was a man up on the stoop--he had the valise, Walter said,"
put in Belle.  "He dropped it and ran."

"Who could he be?" asked Cora.

"An enemy!" fairly hissed the Spanish girl, with something of
dramatic intensity.  "I tried to keep secret ze fact zat I was
working for my father's release.  I will not tire you wiz telling you
all, but some enemies know I have papairs zat prove ze innocence of
Senor Ralcanto.  Zis man--Pedro Valdez he call himself--has been
trying to get zem from me.  He tried in New York, and he said he
would give me no rest until he had zem.  He must have been following
me--no hard task since I have traveled a slow and weary way.  Zen,
when he saw my valise--he must have thought it his chance."

"How dreadful!" murmured Bess.  "To think that such things could
happen in Chelton!"

"And perhaps we are not at the end of them yet," said Cora, softly.
"The man got away, didn't he, Belle?"

"So Walter said.  Oh, dear!  I'm glad we're going to the West
Indies!"

"Oh, zat I were going wiz you!"  exclaimed Inez, clasping her thin,
brown hands in an appealing gesture.  "But if you will take zese
papairs, Senorita, and help to free my father--I will never be able
to repay your great kindness."

"We shall have to ask papa about it," said Bess, cautiously.  "Would
you like to have him come and talk to you--he would understand about
the political side of it so much better than we would."

"I would gladly welcome ze senor," said Inez, with a graceful
dignity.  "I shall be honored if he come."

"I think he'll be glad to," spoke Belle.  "He loves anything about,
politics--he's a reformer, you know."

"And so was my father--he belong to ze reform party--but the others--zey
of ze old regime--zey like not reform in Sea Horse Island," chattered
Inez.  "Zey lose too much money zereby.  So my father he is in prison,
and I am here!" she finished, softly.

"Well, it's all dreadfully mixed up," sighed Cora, "and I believe it
will take your father, Belle, to straighten out some of the tangle.
Meanwhile, I suppose I'd better put these papers in the safe," for
Inez had thrust them into Cora's rather unwilling hands.

"Keep zem safe, if you can Senora," pleaded the girl.  "Zat--zat
villain, if I must call him such--zat Valdez may come back for zem."

Mrs. Kimball started.

"Don't worry, mother," said Cora.  "Jack is home now, to say nothing
of Walter and Harry."

"Oh, my poor boy!" exclaimed his mother.  "I must go to him.  Dr.
Blake ought to be here."

"There comes his car now," volunteered Belle.  "I know the sound."

Several events, of no particular importance now followed each other
in rapid succession.  It was Dr. Blake who had arrived, and he was
soon subjecting Jack to a searching medical examination, with the
result of which, only, we need concern ourselves.  Cora, slipping the
bundle of papers the Spanish girl had given her into the house safe,
begged Walter to keep a sharp lookout for the possible return of the
mysterious man, and then she went back to stay with Inez until Dr.
Blake should be able to see the foreign visitor.  Harry and Walter
talked in the library, and Bess and Belle--after a brief chat with the
other boys, went home to tell their folks the news, and consult Mr.
Robinson about the Spanish prisoner.

"Rest--rest and a change of scene--a complete change is all he
needs," had been Dr. Blake's verdict regarding Jack.  "If he could go
south for the winter, it would be the making of him.  He'll come back
in the spring a new lad.  But a rest and change he must have.  His
nerves demand it!"

"And we shall see that he gets it," said Mrs. Kimball.  "Now about
that girl, Doctor."

"Nothing the matter with her--just starved, that's all.  The easiest
prescription to write in the world.  Feed her.  You've already got a
good start on it.  Keep it up."

"Of course you can't advise us about her father, and the story she
tells."

"No.  She seems sincere, though.  As you say, Mr. Robinson, with his
business connections, will be the best one at that end of it."

"Poor girl," murmured Cora.  "I do hope we can help her."

"She has been helped already," the physician informed her.  "And, if
I am any judge by the past activities of the motor girls, she is in
for a great deal more of help in the future," and he laughed and
pinched Cora's tanned check.

"Will you need to see Jack again?" asked his mother.

"Not until just before he goes away.  The less medicine he takes the
better, though I'll leave a simple bromide mixture for those
shrieking nerves of his--they will cry out once in a while--the ends
are all bare--they need padding with new thoughts.  Get him away as
soon as you can."

It was a new problem for the Kimball family to solve, but they were
equal to it.  Fortunately, money matters did not stand in the road,
and since Jack was not to keep up his studies, and since Cora had
"finished," there were no ties of location to hinder.

"I guess we'll all have to go away," sighed Mrs. Kimball.  "I had
rather counted on a quiet winter in Chelton, but of course now we
can't have it."

"Perhaps it will be all for the best," suggested Cora.  "If Bess and
Belle are going away, I won't have any fun here alone."

A little silence followed this remark.  The Robinson twins, who had
just come back for an evening call, sat looking at each other.
Between them they seemed to hide some secret.

"You tell her, Bess," suggested Belle.

"You, you, dear!"

"Is there anything?" asked Cora, smiling at her chums.

"Oh, dear, it's the best thing in the world--if you'll consent to
it!" burst out Bess.  "Listen!  Papa and mamma want you to come with
us, Cora--to the West Indies.  They'd love to have you and your
mother."

"We couldn't leave Jack!" said Cora, softly.

"Bring him along!" invited Belle.  "It would be just the thing for
him--wouldn't it, Dr. Blake?"

"The West Indies?  Yes, I should say there couldn't be a better
place."

"Oh!" gasped Cora.

"Do say yes, Mrs. Kimball!" pleaded Belle.

"What about poor little Inez?" questioned Cora.  "Did you tell your
father, Bess?"

"Yes, and he seems to think there may be something in it.  He is
going to make inquiries.  Oh, but let's settle this first.  Will you
come with us, Mrs. Kimball--Cora?  And bring Jack!  Oh, it would be
just perfect to have you with us."

"Could we go, Mother?" Cora pleaded.

"Why, it is all so sudden--and yet there is no good reason why we
shouldn't."

"Good!" cried Walter.  "I'm coming, too!  I never could leave old
Jack!  Ho, for the West Indies!"



CHAPTER VIII

THE DREAM OF INEZ


"Oh, Walter, are you really going?"

"Do you mean it?"

"Are you joking?"

Thus Belle, Bess and Cora questioned Jack's chum, who stood in the
center of the library, one hand thrust between two buttons of his
coat, and the other raised above his head like some political orator
of the old school.

"Mean it?  Of course I mean it!" he exclaimed, while Dr. Blake
chuckled.  "I need a rest and change.  Anyone will tell you that--er
my appetite is not what it once was."

"No, it's on the increase," murmured Harry.

"And as for nerves--"

"Nerve, you mean," Harry went on.  "You have more than your share."

"There, you see!" declaimed Walter, triumphantly.  "I simply need
some change."

"Better pay back what you borrowed of me to fee the Pullman porter,"
went on his tormentor.

"Hush!" ordered Walter, imperiously.  "I'll pay you--when I come back
from the West Indies."

"You seem to think it's all settled," laughed Cora.

"It is, as far as I'm concerned," said Walter, coolly.  "If I can't
go any other way I'll go as a valet to Mr. Robinson, or courier to
the rest of the family.  I can speak the language--habe Espanola?
Oh, you simply can't get along without me--especially as I'll pay my
own fare.  And, Jack'll need me, too.  It's all settled."

Mrs. Kimball looked at Dr. Blake.  There was a serious and
questioning look on her face.

"What do you think, Doctor?" she asked.

"Professionally, I should say it was an excellent chance," he
replied.  "It would do Jack a world of good, and, though neither you
nor Cora seems to be in need of recuperation, I have no doubt you
would enjoy the trip."

"Then you simply must come!" cried Belle.  "I'll 'phone papa at
once."

"Not quite so fast, my dear," said Mrs. Kimball, gently.  "I must
first see if Jack would like it."

"He's sure to," declared Cora, who already had visions of palm-tufted
coral islands, and deep blue waters.

"Just tell him he's going," suggested Dr. Blake.  "Patients, such as
he, don't need much urging one way or the other.  The trouble is they
are too little inclined to resist."

He took up his, hat, as a signal that he was going, and once more
expressing his professional opinion that the change would be the best
possible medicine for Jack, took his leave.

"Let's go up and tell Jack now," suggested Cora, who, the more she
thought of the new plan, more cordially welcomed it.

"It might disturb his night's rest," objected her mother.  "He has
had a hard day, traveling and all that--"

"He seemed very bright," put in Walter.  "I think it would give him
something good to think of.  He's been brooding too much over having
to quit the football eleven and his favorite studies."

"Then tell him, by all means," assented Mrs. Kimball.  "May we count
on you, if we make up a party to go to the West Indies?" she asked of
Harry.

"I'm afraid not, thank you.  I'd give anything to go, but I can't
spare the time from college.  Some other occasion, perhaps."

As Walter had predicted, Jack took fire at once oh hearing the
proposal.

"It'll be great!" he declared.  "I've always wanted to go.  I wonder
what sort of a boat we could get down there, Wally?  It would be
immense to go on a cruise, among those hundreds of islands."

"Time enough to think of that when we get there, old man.  Then you'd
like to go?"

"I sure would.  Tell Mr. Robinson thanks--a hundred times."

"I'll save some of them for to-morrow; it's getting late.  Now turn
over, and go to sleep."

"Sleep!  As if I could sleep with that news!  Let's talk about it!"

And they did--the girls coming up with Mrs. Kimball for a brief chat.
Then the invalid was ordered to quiet down for the night.

Walter, with Harry, who was to remain at the Kimball residence for a
few days, went home with the Robinson twins in their car, Cora
trailing along in her automobile to bring back the boys.

The next day nothing was talked of but the prospective trip.
Walter wired his people and received permission to absent himself
from college, ostensibly to help look after Jack.  As Harry had
said, he could not go, but Mrs. Kimball and Cora fully made up their
minds to make the journey with Jack, and close up the Chelton
home for the winter months.

"But what about Inez and her political problem?" asked Belle, when
this much had been settled.  "She doesn't want to stay and be, as she
says, a burden on you any longer, poor little girl."

"She's far from being a burden," spoke Cora.  "Why, mother says the
lace she sold us was the most wonderful bargain, even though we did
give her more than she asked for it.  And as for making pretty
things, why she's a positive genius.  My pretty lace handkerchief
that was so badly torn, she mended beautifully.  And she is so
skillful with the needle!  Mother says she never need go out peddling
lace again.  There are any number of shops that would be glad to have
her as a worker."

"It's so good she fell into your hands," murmured Bess.  "But, as you
say, what about her?  Papa has looked over her papers, and he says
there is really enough evidence in them to free Mr. Ralcanto.  Papa
even cabled to some business friends in San Juan, and they confirmed
enough of Inez's story to make him believe it all.

"Of course I don't understand--I never could make head nor tail of
politics, but there seems to be a conspiracy to keep Mr. Ralcanto in
jail, and treat him shamefully.  Inez did accidentally find the
evidence to free him, and her father's enemies tried to get it away
from her."

"Then that man whom Walter saw," began Cora, "was--"

"He might have been after the papers," interrupted Bess, "and again,
he might have been only a tramp, hoping to get a valise full of lace.
At any rate, he hasn't been around again."'

"Mother told our man John to be on the watch for him," said Cora.
"And now lets consider what we are going to do.  What shall I need to
take in the way of clothes?"

"Only your very lightest, my dear," suggested Belle.  "Of course the
trip down on the steamer will be cool--at least the first day or so.
Well start in about two weeks.  That will bring us to Porto Rica
about, the beginning of the dry season--the most delightful time."

"And is your father really going to try to have the Spanish prisoner
released?" asked Cora.

"He says he is, my dear.  And when papa makes up his mind to do a
thing, it is generally done," said Bess.  "Besides, he has learned
that Mr. Ralcanto did some political  favors for friends of papa's.
That is before the poor man was put in prison.  Which brings us back
to Inez--what about her, Cora?"

"I have just thought of something," murmured Jack's sister.  "As I
said, she has several times suggested going, now she is practically
assured that something will be attempted for her father.  But I was
just wondering why we couldn't take her with us?"

"Of course!" cried Belle.

"Mamma was going to take Janet for a maid," Cora resumed, "but Janet
isn't very keen on going. I fancy she thinks the West Indian Islands
are inhabited by cannibals."

"The idea!" laughed Bess.

"Well, I found her reading some books on African travel," Cora went
on, "and she asked me if the climate wasn't about the same.  She
seems to think all hot countries are the homes of cannibals.  So I
imagine Janet will refuse to go--at the last moment."

"Would Inez go, as a maid?"  asked Belle.

"I fancy so.  She says she has done so before, since the change in
her fortunes.  And mother and I like her very much.  Besides, she
speaks Spanish, and that would be a great help."

"Why, Walter said--" began Bess, wonderingly.

"He knows just two words of Spanish, and he speaks them as though he
were a German comedian," declared Cora.  "Wally is all right
otherwise, but as a translator of the Castilian tongue, I wouldn't
trust him to ask what time it was," she laughed. "But Inez would be
such a help."

"Then why don't you take her?" asked Bess.  And, when it had been
talked over with Mrs. Kimball, it was practically decided upon.

"Lets go tell Inez," proposed Belle, "when the decision had been
reached.  It will be such a surprise to her."

The Spanish girl, though not fully recovered from the long period of
insufficient food and weary toil, had insisted upon taking up some of
the duties, of the Kimball home.  But Cora's mother required that she
rest a portion of each day to recover her strength.  And, as the
girls sought her in her own little room (for Inez was anything but a
servant), they found her just awakening from a sleep.

"Oh, Senoritas!" she exclaimed, her cheeks flushed under their olive
tint.  "I have had such a beautiful dream.  I dreamed I was back in
my own dear country--on Sea Horse Island.  Oh, but ze palms waved a
welcome to me, and ze waters--ze so blue waters--zey sang a song to
me.  Ze blue waves broke on ze coral--as I have seen it so, often.
Oh, but, Senoritas, I was sorry to awaken--so sorry--for it was but a
dream."

"No, Inez, it was not all a dream," said Cora, gently.  "If you like,
you may go back to Sea Horse Island.  We will take you to Porto Rico
with us, and from there you can easily go to your own island."

"Oh, will you--will you take me, Senoritas?" cried Inez, kneeling at
Cora's feet.  "Oh, but it is magnificent of you!" and she covered
Cora's hands with kisses.



CHAPTER IX

OFF TO WATERS BLUE


"Oh, Jack!  Aren't you just wild to go?"

"I don't know, Cora.  Anything for a change, I suppose," was the
listless answer.  "I'd go anywhere--do anything--just to get one good
night's sleep again."

"You poor boy!  Didn't you rest well?"

"A little better than usual, but I'm so dead tired when I wake up--I
don't seem to have closed my eyes."

Jack's nervous trouble had taken the turn of insomnia---that bugbear
of physician and patient alike--and while the others had their night
hours filled with dreams, or half-dreams, of pleasant anticipation,
poor Jack tumbled and tossed restlessly.

"I'm sure you will be much better when we get to San Juan," affirmed
Cora.  "The sea voyage will do you good, and then down there it will
be such a change for you."

"I suppose it will," assented her brother.  "But just now I don't
feel energetic enough even to head a rescue party for Senor
Ralcanto."

That remark seemed very serious to Cora, for her brother was of a
lively and daring disposition, always the leader in any pranks.  Now,
his very listlessness told how strong a hold, or, rather, lack of
hold, his nerves had on him.

"Never mind," said Cora cheerfully.  "Once we get started, and with
Wally, Bess and Belle to cheer you up, I'm sure you'll be much
better."

"Anything for a change," again assented Jack, without enthusiasm.

Arrangements were rapidly being made.  The Kimball and Robinson homes
in Chelton would be closed for, the winter, for the families planned
to stay in the West Indies until spring should have again brought
forth the North into its green attire.  Walter Pennington had agreed
to stay as long as Jack did, and Mrs. Kimball, being of independent
means, as were Mr. and Mrs. Robinson, could prolong their cruise
indefinitely, if they so desired.

As for the girls, it was like standing on the threshold of a new
wonderland.  They did not know all the wonders they were about to
see, nor did they dream of all the strange experiences and adventures
in which they, would play an active part.

Inez had communicated with the few distant friends she had in New
York, telling them of her great joy in being able to get back to Sea
Horse Island.  And her father, too, might find happiness in release
from his political prison.

The Spanish girl would go as a maid and companion to Mrs. Kimball,
and Inez rejoiced in her new duties.  Cora's mother declared Inez was
a jewel.

The papers that it was hoped would free Mr. Ralcanto were carefully
concealed for taking with the party, for, though Jack and Walter
scoffed at the idea of anyone daring to try to get them, Mr. Robinson
was not so sanguine.

"Down there conditions are very different from up here," he said.
"They haven't the same wholesome regard for law--or, rather, they
take it into their own hands, as suits their fancy.  And if any one
of the political party opposed to Mr. Ralcanto, was to see a chance,
even up north here, I don't doubt but that he'd take it, and make off
with the papers.

"Of course we might manage to do without them, but there is no use
running unnecessary risks.  So I'll just put them where they won't
find them in a hurry."

A search had been made in Chelton for the mysterious man who had
tried to make off with Inez's valise, but all trace of him was lost.
He might have been merely a passing tramp.

The girls were in a constant flutter of excitement.  There was so
much to do, and so many new garments to secure.  The two motor cars
were kept in constant use, Bess, Belle and Cora darting back and
forth in their respective houses, or to the Chelton shops.
Occasionally they made a trip to New York for something which simply
could not properly be had at the home stores.

As for Jack and Walter, they declared that they we're ready to start
on ten minutes notice.

"All we have to do is to chuck a few things in a suit case, and buy
our tickets," Walter declared.  "I always carry a tooth brush with
me."

"Wonderful--marvelous!" mocked Bess.

"Superior creatures--aren't they?" suggested Cora, smiling.

And so the preparations went on.  The party was to sail in a fruit
steamer from New York, and would land at San Juan, where Mr. Robinson
had engaged rooms at the best hotel.  He expected to do considerable
business there, but future plans were not all settled.

"At any rate, we'll have a most glorious time!" declared Bess, "and
I'm sure it will do Jack good."

"I think its done him some good already just thinking about it,"
replied Cora.  "Though he declares that he doesn't care much, one way
or the other.  It isn't like Jack to be thus indifferent."

"He doesn't seem so very indifferent--just now," commented. Belle,
dryly.  "He and Walter are trying to explain to Inez how a motor car
works and I do believe Jack is holding her hand much longer than he
needs, to in showing her how the gears are shifted."

The three girls--Cora and her chums--were in Cora's room, making a
pretense at packing.  They could look down to the drive at the side
of the house--where Jack's car stood after a little run.  As Belle
had said, Jacks indifference seemed partially to have vanished.  For
he was enthusiastic in imparting some information to Inez.

As I have explained, the position of the pretty Spanish girl was much
different from that of an ordinary servant.  She was more like a
companion.  And, now that a rest and good food had rounded out her
hollow cheeks, she was distinctively pretty, with that rather bold
and handsome type of beauty for which the southern women are so
noted.  Jack and Walter both seemed much impressed.  The girls were
not jealous--at least not yet--of Inez.

Inez was so delighted with the prospect of getting back to her own
island, and with the chance of helping free her father, that it is
doubtful if she looked upon Jack and Walter with any more seeing eyes
than those which she would have directed to small boys at their play.
She liked them.  She liked them to show her about the automobile, and
she laughed frankly with them--but she was totally ingenuous.

"And she could be so--so dangerous--if she chose," murmured Belle.

"What do you mean?" asked Cora.

"I mean--with her languorous," was the murmured reply.

Cora looked sharply at her chum, but said nothing.

The last gown had been delivered, and the trunks needed but the
straps around them to close their lids.  The Chelton houses had been
put in readiness for their lonely winter, and already the tang of
frost in the late October air had brought the advance message of Jack
Frost.

Some few purchases remained for Mrs. Robinson and Mrs. Kimball to
make, but these were deferred until the trip to New York to take the
steamer.  They would remain a day or so in the metropolis before
sailing.

"One last run in our cars, and then well put them away," suggested
Cora to her chums.

"We'll come along," Jack invited himself and Walter.

They had a glorious day in the open.  Then the gasoline tanks were
emptied, the radiators drained, and the cars put away in the garage.

"I do hope we can do some motor boating down there," said Jack, with
something like a return of his former interest.

"We shall, I'm sure," said Bess.  "'They say it is ideal for the
sport there."

Inez had sent word to her father that an attempt would be made to
free him.  That is, she had sent the message.  Whether it would reach
him or not was another question, for his political enemies had him
pretty well hedged about.

New York was no novelty to our friends, for they often ran in during
the winter.  The days there were busy ones, and passed quickly.

Their luggage was put aboard the steamer, the last purchases had been
made, and now they were ready themselves to walk up the gang-plank.

"Well, girls, are you all ready to leave?" asked Mr. Robinson, as he
came on deck.

"All ready--for waters blue!" half chanted Cora.

"Inez," she asked, "would you mind going down and seeing if mother
has everything she wants?"

"I go, Senorita," murmured the Spanish girl.  As she turned to make
her way to Mrs. Kimball's stateroom, Inez started and drew back at
the sight of a very fat man just coming aboard.  "Zat man!  Here!"
she gasped, and Cora turned to see Inez shrink out of sight behind
one of the lifeboats.



CHAPTER X

THE BLUE WATERS


"What is the matter, my dear girl?" asked Cora, when she had
recovered from the little start Inez gave her.  "Did that man do
anything--or speak to you?" and she looked indignantly about for a
ship's officer to whom to complain.

"No! No--not that!" cried the Spanish girl, quickly.  "He did not
speak--he did not even look!"

"Then why are you so alarmed?"

"It is because I know zat man--I know him when I am in New York
before.  He try to find out from me about my father," and a
shivering, as if of fear, seemed to take possession of the timid
girl.

"Do you mean he belonged to the political party that put your father
in prison?"

"Zat is it.  Oh, but zese politics!  I know not what zey mean, but
zey are trouble--trouble always.  Now zat man he is here--he is
looking for me, I am sure."

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Cora, determined, whether she believed it or,
not, to make light of the matter, for Inez was certainly much
alarmed.

"I don't believe he even knows you are on board," Jack's sister went
on, "But we'll speak to Mr. Robinson about it.  He'll know what to
do.  Do you think that man saw you?"

"I know not, Senorita Cora.  But I am much afraid!"   There was no
doubt of that; the girl's eyes and every movement, showed her alarm.

"Come along!" Cora forced herself to say brightly.  "We'll soon
settle this matter.  We'll find out who that man is, and--"

"Oh, no!  No, Senorita.  Do not trouble.  It you should do zat, zis
man would only make matters worse for my poor father.  Let him
alone!"

"And have you, and us, worrying all the time on this voyage?  Indeed,
I'll not."

This was not Cora's way.  She never shrank from doing what she
considered to be her duty.  In this case, her duty lay in finding out
whether or not there was a real, or fancied enemy, of Mr. Ralcanto's
aboard.

The man who had caused this little flurry of excitement, had, by this
time, gone down to his stateroom.  Other belated passengers were
hurrying aboard, the last consignment of freight was being brought to
the dock, and preparations for leaving were multiplying.

"I might as well wait until I can see him, you can point him out to
me again," said Cora,  "and then I'll show him to Mr. Robinson.  He
can speak to the captain, and find out who the big man is."

"Very well, Senorita," assented Inez.  "But I do not wish to give
annoyance.  I have already been such a burden--"

"Nonsense!" Cora cried.  "We've undertaken this business of getting
your father out of that political prison, and we're going to do it.
I think we're going to start now."

There was little doubt about it.  Bells were jingling, whistles were
blowing and men were hoarsely shouting.  Then the gang-plank was
pulled to the dock, away from the steamer's side, just after a last
belated passenger had run up it.

Mooring ropes were cast off, and then with a blast from her siren,
that fairly made the decks tremble, the ship was slowly pushed out
into the river to drop down the harbor, and so on her way to Porto
Rico.

It was just before the pilot was about to leave, that Cora got a
chance to carry out her intention of drawing the attention of Mr.
Robinson to the mysterious man who had so seriously alarmed Inez.

The personal baggage of our travelers had been put away in the
respective staterooms, and they were all up on deck watching the
scenes about the harbor.  Inez, who was standing near Mrs. Kimball
and Cora, suddenly gave a start, and touching Jack's sister on the
arm, whispered:

"There he is!   And he is looking right at me!"

Cora turned quickly.  She did behold the gaze of the fat man directed
in rather scrutinizing fashion on the Spanish girl, and, as he saw
that he was attracting attention, he quickly averted his eyes.  In
appearance he was a Cuban or Spaniard, well dressed and prosperous
looking, but not of prepossessing appearance.

At that moment Mr. Robinson strolled past, talking to the captain
whom he knew, for the twins' father had long been engaged in a branch
of the coffee importing business, and had much to do with ships.

"Now is my chance," thought Cora.  "I'll find out who that man is."

She whispered to Inez to keep the mysterious stranger in view, while
she herself went to speak to Mr. Robinson and the captain.  She had
previously been introduced to the commander, and found him most
agreeable.

Cora quickly explained to Mr. Robinson the little alarm Inez had
experienced, and requested him to find out, from the captain, who the
man was.

"That man?" queried the commander, in answer to Mr. Robinson's
question.  "Why, he is an old traveler with me.  He goes up and down
to Porto Rico quite often.  He's a coffee merchant, Miguel Ramo by
name, and very wealthy, I believe.  Do you wish to meet him?"

"Oh, no!" said Cora hastily, and with a meaning look at Mr. Robinson,
"I--I just wanted to know who he was."

"He has a very interesting personality," went on the captain.  "He
has been through a number of revolutions in his own native country,
of Venezuela, and, I believe, has mixed up, more or less, with
politics in Porto Rico.  He tells some queer stories."

"Perhaps I shall be glad to make his acquaintance, later," murmured
Mr. Robinson, as Cora, with a meaning look, slipped away.  She had
found out part of what she wanted to know.

While Mr. Robinson and the captain continued their stroll along deck,
Cora slipped to where Inez was waiting.

"Do you know a Senor Miguel Ramo?" asked Jack's sister.

Inez puckered her brow in thought.

"No," she said slowly, "I do not know ze name, but I am sure zat man
was on Sea Horse Island when my father was taken to prison.  I am
fearful of him."

"Well, you needn't be," declared Cora, lightly.  "Remember you're
with us, and under the protection of Mr. Robinson.  Besides, that man
seems well known to Captain Watson, and, even if he is a revolutionist,
he may not be a bad one."

Inez shook her head.  The sad experiences through which she had
passed had not tended to make her brave and self-reliant, as was
Cora.  But, even at that, Inez could not but feel the helpful
influence of the motor girls, and already, from their influence, she,
had gained much.

Out of seeming confusion and chaos came order and discipline, and
soon matters were running smoothly aboard the vessel.  Jack and
Walter came up on-deck, with Bess and Belle, and the young people,
including Inez, who was regarded more as a companion than as a maid,
formed one of the group that watched the shores and ships slipping
past, as they went through the Narrows, and out into the bay.

Cora told of the little alarm Inez had experienced, and Walter was at
once anxious to establish a sort of espionage over the suspect.  Jack
agreed with him, and doubtless they would have constituted themselves
a committee of two to "dog" the footsteps of the fat man, had not
Cora firmly interfered.

"Mr. Robinson is looking after him," said Jack's sister, "and he'll
do all that is necessary.  Besides, I don't believe that man is the
one Inez thinks he is.  She isn't quite so sure as she was; are you?"

"No, Senorita.  And yet--I know not why but I am of a fear about
him."

"Don't you worry--I'll look out for you!" said Jack, taking her hand,
which Inez, with a pretty blush, hastily snatched away from him.

The pilot was "dropped," and then began the real voyage of about
fifteen hundred miles to San Juan.  It was destined to be uneventful,
so we shall not concern ourselves with it, except to say that though
Mr. Robinson kept a close watch on Senor Ramo, he could detect
nothing that could connect him with the imprisonment of the father of
Inez.  If the coffee merchant were in any way responsible, he
betrayed no sign of it, not even when Mr. Robinson, in conversation
with him, introduced the name of Senor Ralcanto.  So, unless the fat
man was an excellent actor, it was decided Inez had been mistaken.

She herself, however, would not admit this, and continued to believe
the man an enemy of her family.  She avoided meeting him, and when
she saw him on deck, she went back to her stateroom.

The weather had been cold, sharp and rather dreary on leaving New
York, and warm clothing and coats were in demand.  But in a day or so
the balmy winds of the south began to make themselves felt, and the
travelers were glad to don lighter clothing.

Mr. Robinson had been to Cuba, though not to Porto Rico, but the
islands, are much the same, and his knowledge of one sufficed for the
other.  Inez, too, was of service to the girls and the two ladies in
telling them what to wear.

Mr. Robinson and the boys were comfortable in suits of thin Scotch
tweed, once the southern limits were reached, and later they changed
to linen of the kind they used during their stay.  Mrs. Robinson,
Mrs. Kimball, and the girls varied from brown silks to linens, and
found them perfectly well suited to the climate.

The days slipped by.  The sun became warmer and warmer, and then, one
morning, as the party came on, deck after breakfast, Cora, going
forward, called out:

"Oh, see how blue the water is!"

"Isn't it!" agreed Bess.

"How beautiful!" murmured Belle.

"Now we are coming to my country," said Inez, softly.  "Off there is
Porto Rico, and beyond--beyond is Sea Horse Island--and my father!"

There were traces of tears in her eyes.  Cora softly slipped her hand
into that of the pretty refugee.



CHAPTER XI

IN SAN JUAN


The anchor splashed into the blue waters of San Juan Bay.  The ship
swung around at her cable, and came to rest, and then up came the
small boats with their skippers, eager to obtain fares and the
transportation of baggage.  Sailing craft there were, puffing tugs,
old-fashioned naphtha launches and the more modern gasoline launches,
all-swarming about the steamer.

"Look at that!" cried Jack, as he viewed the scene before him.  "What
does it all mean?  Why don't we go up to the dock in regular style,
and not stop away out here?"

"There aren't any really good docks in San Juan, though there may be
some built soon," said Mr. Robinson.  "We'll have to go ashore in
some of these craft.  They're all right.  I'll see to our luggage."

"Well, this is some difference from New York," commented Jack.

"Yes, and that's the beauty of it," remarked his sister.  "It is the
change that is going to do you good, Jack dear," and she smiled at
him, brightly.

"I'm beginning to feel better already, Sis," he answered, and there
was a keener look in his eyes that had been so tired, while his
checks were flushed with the warmth of the air, and the excitement in
anticipation of new scenes.

"Well, get ready, girls!" called Mr. Robinson, "Get all your
furbelows and fixings together, and we'll go ashore in one of these
boats.  My! but it's warm!"

It was hot, with the heat of the tropics, for the rainy season was
not yet fully over, though it was approaching its end, and more
pleasant weather might be expected.

Porto Rico, I might explain, nearly resembles the climate of Florida,
though it is not quite so hot in summer, nor so cold in winter.  It
is nearly always like June in Porto Rico, the thermometer then, and
in July, reaching its maximum of eighty-six, the average being
seventy-two.

Mr. Robinson bargained with the skipper of a large and new motor boat
to take him, his party and their baggage ashore, and when the trunks
and bags had been transferred, off they started over the blue waters
toward the small, docks, at which were congregated many small fishing
craft.

"Oh, but it is beautiful!" exclaimed Cora, as she looked down into
the waters, which were of an intense blue, even close to shore.  That
is characteristic of this coral land, the ocean near the coast being
always that blue, except where it is colored by the inflowing of some
large stream.

Before them lay the city itself, a city of many white buildings, the
color of which met and blended with the tints of the mountains
beyond, and those tints varied from olive green, into olive brown,
indigo, and, in some places, even to the more brilliant ultramarine.
The motor girls gazed at the scene with eager eyes, and into those of
Inez came tears of joy, for she was, every minute, coming nearer and
nearer to the land she loved--the land where her father was a
prisoner.

Up to the small dock puffed the motor boat, and when Mr. Robinson
demanded to know the price, the boatman named a sum that instantly
brought forth a voluble protest from the Spanish girl.  At once she
and the boatman engaged in a verbal duel.

"Mercy!" exclaimed Bess.  "What can have happened?  Is he some
brigand who wants to carry us off?"

"Or a pirate?" suggest Jack.  "He looks like one.  Wally, have you a
revolver with you?"

"Don't you dare!" cried Belle, covering her ears with her hands.

"He want to charge two pesos too much!" explained Inez, when she had
her breath.  "It is not lawful!" and once more she expostulated in
Spanish.

The boatman, with a shrug of his shoulders, as much as to ask, "How
can one quarrel with a woman?" accepted the amount Inez picked out
from the change Mr. Robinson held out, and then they went ashore,
their luggage being put on the pier.

The boatman was sullen about the failure of his trick, until Mr.
Robinson, who was an experienced traveler, slipped him a coin, which
must have been large enough to make up for the disappointment, for
the man murmured: "Muchas gracias!" and fell to with a will to help
the travelers get their belongings into a carriage.

"What did he say to papa?" asked Bess, of Inez.

"Many thanks," translated the Spanish girl.

"I must practice that!" spoke Jack.  "What else do you say in this
country, Inez?"

"Oh, many zings, Senor," and she blushed prettily.  "It all depends
on what you want.  But many here speak ze English as you do.  Zere is
little trouble."

"What would I do if I wanted a glass of ice cream soda water?" asked
Walter.  "And I feel like one now."

"Zere is not so much of your ice-cream soda here," went on Inez, "but
ozer drinks are of a goodness.  Cocoanut milk is much nice.  If in a
store you go, say 'Quiero' (ke-a-ro), which means 'I want.'  And zen
name zat which you desire.  You will of a soon learn ze Spanish for
many zings."

"And how shall we know what to pay?" asked Bess.

"Say 'Cuanto?'" directed Inez.  "Cuanto (koo-ahn-to) means 'how much,'
and the man will soon tell you--if, indeed, he does not tell you too
much.  But you will soon learn."

"I have a better way than all this cuanto and piero business," spoke
Walter.

"How?" asked Jack.  "Show me."

"Go in the place, make a noise like the article you want, or, better
still, go pick it out from the shelves, hold out a handful of money,
and let the fellow help himself," was Walter's way out of the
difficulty.  "He'll probably leave you enough for carfare."

"Well, that is a good way, too," agreed Jack.

"We'll try both."

The travelers were distributed in two carriages, their heavy luggage
being put in a wagon to follow them to the hotel.  On the way to
their stopping place, Cora and her chums were much interested in the
various sights.  They had come to a typical tropical Spanish city,
though it was under the dominion of the United States.

No one seemed in a hurry, and, though there were many whites,
including Spaniards, to be seen, the majority of the inhabitants were
of negro blood, the gradations being from very black to a mulatto,
with a curious reddish tinge, in hair and skin, showing Spanish
blood.

It was quite a different hotel from the one they had stopped at in
New York, there being none of that smartness of service one looks for
in the metropolis.

But the rooms were comfortable, and the travelers were assured of
good cooking, Inez said.  However, there was a penetrating odor of
onion and garlic from the direction of the kitchen, that made Jack
say to his mother, apprehensively:

"I say, Mater, you know I can't go onions, especially since I am down
on my feed.  What'll I do?  I can stand their red pepper, but onions
never!"

"You shall but ask zat none be put in your food, and none will," said
Inez.  "Many travelers do so.  I, myself, do not like onions any
more."

"I'm glad of it!" said Jack.  "You can sit next to me at table,
Inez," whereat she blushed under her olive hue.

Mr. Robinson, seeing that the ladies, girls and youths were
comfortably settled in their new quarters, went off to see some
business associates, promising to come back in time for an afternoon
drive, following the siesta.

"For everyone takes a siesta," explained Inez, speaking of the
"afternoon nap."

The drive about the city, and out a distance into the country, was
enjoyed by all.  Jack seemed to be improving hourly, and his mother
and sister assured each other that no mistake had been made in
bringing him to Porto Rico.

"And, now that we have him in a fair way to getting better, we must
see what we can do to help Inez," said Cora.  "I am sure she will
never be happy until she is on her way to Sea Horse Island, and is
able to start measures for freeing her father."

"I fancy we had better let Mr. Robinson attend to those matters,"
Mrs. Kimball said.  "He knows best what moves to make.  Poor girl!  I
know just how she feels."

The party stopped for a while to look at the statue of Columbus, who
discovered Porto Rico on his second voyage.  From there, they drove
about the city, admiring the various buildings of Spanish
architecture, and, as a finish to the drive, went to the old
morro--fort or castle--of San Juan.  All signs of the bombardment by
Admiral Sampson's fleet, during the Spanish-American War, had been
done away with.  It was a place of interest to them all, for it was
very old, and had withstood many attacks.  They went through the
watch-tower and also the lighthouse.

"Well, I think we've done enough for one day," announced Cora, as
they started back for the hotel.  "I'm quite done out, and I'm sure
Jack must be tired."

"A little," he admitted.

A concert in the evening, a stroll about the plaza, watching the
pretty Spanish girls, and the homely duennas, brought the day to a
close.

"And now for bed," sighed Cora.  "I wonder if one dreams in San Juan
any differently than in Chelton?"

"Cheerful Chelton!" cried Bess.  "Doesn't it seem far away!"

All the rooms of our party were near together on the same corridor,
Bess, Belle and Cora having connecting apartments.  They left the
doors open between, and it was due to this that Cora heard, soon
after falling into a light doze, the voice of Belle calling her.

"Cora!  Cora!" came the entreaty.

"Yes--what is it?" asked Cora, sleepily.

"Some one is in my room!" hissed Belle, in a stage whisper.

"Oh!" cried Cora, and she sat up suddenly, and pulled the cord of the
electric light.



CHAPTER XII

LEFT ALONE


The flood of radiance from the electric light shone from Cora's room,
into that where Belle was, and with the gleam of the modern illumination,
Cora's bravery grew apace.

"What did you say, Belle?" she asked, now quite wide awake.  "Are you
ill?"

"No, but, oh!  I'm so frightened.  There's some one in my room!  I'm
sure of it!"

"Nonsense!"

"I tell you I can hear some one walking around!" insisted Belle.

"Did you get up and look?" asked Cora.

"Did I get up?  Indeed I did not!" was the indignant answer.  "I'm
scared stiff as it is."

"And you want me to look?" murmured Cora.

"Oh, but you have your light lit, Cora dear.  And really I am afraid
to get up.  Do come and see what it is.  Perhaps it's only one of
those large fruit bats that Inez told us about."

"A bat!  Indeed I'll not come in and have it get tangled in my hair!"
objected Cora.  "I'm going to call some one of the hotel help."

But there was no need, for Jack, whose room was across the corridor
from that of his sister, heard the talking, and, getting into a
dressing gown and slippers, he knocked at Cora's door.

"What is it?" he asked.

"Belle thinks she hears something in her room."

"It's in mine, now," called out Bess, whose apartment was beyond that
of her sister.

"Open the door, and I'll have a look," suggested Jack,
good-naturedly.

"Wait a minute," Cora said, and, slipping into a robe, she admitted
her brother.

"Now we'll see what's going on," he promised.

"Cover up your heads, girls," he called to Bess and Belle, as he and
Cora went into the room of the latter.  "If it's a villain, you won't
get nervous when you see me squelch him."

"Oh!" faintly murmured Belle, as she pulled the covers over her head.
Jack groped for the electric switch and found it, making light
Belle's room.

"I don't see a thing," he announced, looking carefully about.

"It is in here!" said Bess, faintly.  "I can hear it walking about.
It's rattling some papers in a corner of my room."

Jack and Cora went on through to the farther apartment, and Jack,
turning on the light there, approached a pile of paper Bess had
tossed in one corner after unwrapping some purchases made during the
day.

"Look out!" warned Cora, while Bess adopted the same protective
measures as had her sister.  "It may be a rat--or--or something!"

"Most likely--something," said Jack.  He began picking up piece after
piece of paper, and then he suddenly uttered an exclamation.

"Ah!  Would you!" he snapped, and, standing on one foot, he took the
slipper from the other, holding his bare member carefully off the
floor, while he slapped viciously at the pile of papers with his
bedroom weapon.

"Got him!" he announced triumphantly, after two or three blows.

"What was it--a bat?" asked Bess, in muffled tones.

"A centipede," answered Jack.  "A big one, too.  About seven inches
long."

"And their bite is--death!" murmured Bess, in awe-stricken tones.

"Nothing of the sort, though it's very painful" said Jack, shortly.
"Just as well to keep clear of them, however.  I'll throw this
defunct specimen out of the window."

"Please do, and be sure my screen is down," begged Bess.  "I wonder
how he got in?"

"Oh, there are more or less of them in all hotels, I guess," said
Jack, cheerfully enough.

"Don't you dare say so!" cried Belle.  "Please look around my room,
and leave the light burning. I know I'll never sleep a wink."

Jack tossed out the centipede he had killed, and then looked among
the waste paper for more, standing with his bare foot raised, and
with ready slipper, for the bite of this insect, which grows to a
large size in Porto Rico, is anything but pleasant, though it is said
never to cause death, except perhaps in the case of some person whose
blood is very much impoverished.

Both Bess and Belle insisted on their lights being left aglow, though
Jack made a careful search and could discover no more of the
unpleasant visitors.  How Belle had heard the one in her room, if it
really had been that which she said made the noise, was a mystery,
but the creature might have rattled paper as it did in the room of
Bess.

"Call me if you want anything more, Sis," said Jack to his sister, as
he started back to his own apartment.  And then, as he was about to
close, Cora's door Jack looked fixedly at a place on the floor near
her bureau, and with a muttered exclamation hurried toward it.

"Oh! what is it?" his sister begged, alarmed at the look on his face.

"Another one--trying to hide," he murmured.

Off came his slipper again and there followed a resounding whack on
the floor.

"Got that one, too!" Jack announced, and then, as Coral made brave by
the declaration of the death, came closer, she uttered a cry.

"Jack Kimball!" she gasped, accusingly, "you've broken my best
barrette," and she picked up from the floor the shattered fragments
of a dark celluloid hair comb, which had fallen from the bureau.

"Barrette," murmured Jack, in dazed tones.

"Yes--a sort of side comb, only it goes in the back."

"Well, it looked just like a centipede trying to hide under the
bureau," Jack defended himself.  "Is it much damaged?"

"Damaged?  It's utterly ruined," sighed Cora.  "Never mind, Jack, you
meant all right," and she smiled at her brother.

"Oh, dear!  I don't believe I'm going to like it here, even if the
waters are such a heavenly blue."

"What was it--another?" demanded Belle.

"It was my barrette, my dear," laughed Cora.

"Come, young folks!  You must quiet down," came the voice of Cora's
mother from the next room.  "What's all the excitement about?"

"Just--insects," said Jack, with a chuckle.  "We are hunting the
deadly barretted side comb!"

"You'll have to get me another," said Cora, as she bade Jack
good-night.

There was no further disturbance, and the hotel clerk said, next
morning, that the presence of one or two scorpions, or centipedes,
could be accounted for from the fact that the rooms occupied by our
friends had not recently been used. He promised to see to it that all
undesirable visitors were hunted out during the day.

For a week or more, life in San Juan was an experience of delight for
the motor girls.  They visited points of interest in and about the
city, taking Inez with them.  Of course Jack and Walter also went,
and the change was doing the former a world of good.

The mysterious "fat man," as Jack insisted on calling Senor Ramo, had
not come ashore at San Juan, going on with the steamer.  His
destination was another of the many West Indian islands.

As yet, Mr. Robinson had had no chance to communicate with, or make
arrangements for rescuing the father of Inez.  But he was making
careful plans to do this, and now, being on the ground, he could
confirm some information difficult to get at in New York.

The motor girls, and their party, soon accustomed themselves to the
changed conditions.  They learned to eat as the Porto Ricans do--little
meat making eggs take the place, and they never knew before what a
variety of ways eggs could e served.

The weather was growing more pleasant each day, and with the gradual
passing of the hurricane season, they were allowed to take longer
trips in one of the many motor boats with which the harbor abounded.

Sometimes they spent whole days on the water, their dusky captain
keeping a sharp watch out for hurricanes.  These can be detected some
hours off, and a run made for safety.  Some of the whirling storms
are very dangerous, and others merely squalls.

It was when they had been in San Juan about a month, and Mr. Robinson
had promised, in the next few days, to take some measures regarding
the liberation of Senor Ralcanto, that something occurred which
changed the whole aspect of the visit of the motor girls to waters
blue.

Mr. Robinson found that he would have to go on business to a coffee
plantation near Basse Terre, on the French island of Guadeloupe, and
as he had heard there were also rare orchids to be obtained them, he
wanted to stay a few days after his trade matters had been attended
to.

"But I did want to start for Sea Horse Island, and begin my plan to
liberate your father," he said to Inez.

"It can wait, Senor,"' she said, softly.  "A few days more will not
make much of ze difference, as long as he is to be rescued anyhow.  I
would not have you disappointed in ze orchids."

"Then I'll go when we come back," said Mr. Robinson.  "I'll go to
Guadeloupe, and take my wife and Mrs. Kimball with me.  I want them
to see the place."

"And leave us here alone?" asked Bess.

"Certainly, why not?  You are in good hands at the hotel, especially
as the boys are with you.  And Inez is as good as a guide and
European courier made into one."

The weather, which had been fine on the evening when Mr. Robinson and
the two ladies went aboard the steamer, underwent a sudden change
before morning, and when Cora and her chums awoke in the hotel, and
looked out, they found raging a storm that, in its fury, was little
short of a hurricane.

"Oh, Jack!" his sister exclaimed, as she listened to the roar of the
wind and the sharp swish of the rain, "I'm so afraid!"

"What about?  This hotel is a good one."

"I know.  But mamma on that ship--they're out at sea now, and--"

She did not finish.

"That's so," spoke Jack, and a troubled look came over his face.



CHAPTER XIII

THE HURRICANE


How the wind howled, and how the rain beat down!  Outside the window
of Cora's room, the gutters were flush, and running over with
seething water.  In the street below there was a river, along which
bedraggled pedestrians forded their way, envying the patient donkeys
drawing the market venders' carts.

At times the wind rose to a fury that rattled the casements, and
fairly shook the solid structure of the hotel.  Then Cora, who, with
Jack, had come up from the breakfast room, clung to her brother, and
a look of fear came into her eyes.  Nor were Jack's altogether calm.

"What a storm!" murmured the girl.

The door, leading into the next room, opened, and Bess came out.

"Oh, Cora!" she gasped, putting the last touches to her hair, which
she had arranged in a new Spanish way she had seen, and then, tiring
of it, had gone to her room to put it back in its accustomed form.
"Isn't this just awful!"

"Terrible, I say!" came from Belle, who now entered from her
apartment.

"It certainly does rain," agreed Jack.  "Five minutes ago there
wasn't a drop in the street, and now you could float your motor boat
there, if you had it, Cora."

"And we may wish we had it, before we're through," chimed in the
voice of Walter.  They had made of Cora's room, which was the largest
of the suite, a sort of gathering place.

"Why so, Wally?" demanded Jack.

"It looks as though we'd be flooded," was his answer.

"Oh, these storms are common down here" put in Bess.  "I spoke to
Inez about it, and she said the natives here were used to them."

"Such storms as this?" asked Cora, as a fiercer dash of rain, and a
sudden blast of wind, seemed about to tear away the windows and let
the fury of the elements into the room.

"Well, I suppose that's what she meant," said Bess.  "But it is
awful, isn't it?  And mamma and papa, and your mother, Cora, out on
that steamer."

"Oh, they'll be all right," declared Jack.  "It's a big steamer, and
the captain and crew must be used to the weather down here.  They'll
know what to do.  Probably they ran for harbor when they saw the
storm coining.  They say skippers in the West Indies can tell when a
storm's due hours ahead."

But that brought little comfort to the girls, and even Walter looked
worried as the day wore on and the fury of the storm did not abate.
Inez, as one who had lived in the region, was appealed to rather
often to say whether this was not the worst she had ever seen.

"Oh, I have seen zem much worse," was her ready answer, "but zey did
terrible damage.  Terrible!"

And, on talking with some of the old residents of San Juan, and with
the hotel people, Jack and Walter learned that the storm was a most
unusual one.

It was of the nature of a hurricane, but it did not have the sudden
sharpness and shortness of attack of those devastating storms.  The
real hurricane season, due to a change of climatic conditions, was
supposed to have passed, and this storm was entirely unlooked for,
and unexpected.

It did not blow steadily, as hurricanes did, but in fits and gusts,
more disconcerting than a steady blow of more power.  The rain, also,
came in showers.  Now there would not be a drop filling, and again
there would be a deluge, blinding in its intensity.

For want of a better name the storm was called a hurricane, though
many of the real characteristics were lacking.  And, as the dreary
day wore on, the motor girls, and the boys, too, felt themselves
coming under the spell of fear--not so much for themselves, as for
their loved ones aboard the Ramona, which was the name of the steamer
on, which Mr. and Mrs. Robinson and Mrs. Kimball had sailed.

"Oh, if anything has happened to them!" sighed Cora.

"Can't we get some news?" asked Bess, faintly.

"Surely there are telegraph lines and cables," spoke Belle.

"There are," the hotel clerk informed them, "but there are so many
small islands hereabouts, into the harbor of any one of which the
ship may have put, that it would be impossible to say where it was.
And not all the islands have means of communication.  So I beg of you
not to worry, Senoritas.  Surely they are safe."

Yet even the clerk, sophisticated as he was, did not believe all he
himself said.  For the storm, as the girls learned afterward, was
almost unprecedented in the West Indies.

There was nothing they could do save to wait until it was over--until
it had blown itself out, and then to wait, perhaps longer and with an
ever increasing anxiety, for some news of those who had sailed.

"Oh, if Senor Robinson should be lost!" half sobbed Inez, on the
third day of the storm, when it showed no signs of abating.  "If he
should be lost, my father would be doomed forever to zat prison."

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Jack, for it was in talking to Jack and Walter
that the Spanish girl gave utterance to these sentiments.  "Don't go
saying such things around Cora and Bess and Belle, or you'll give
them the fidgets.  There's no sign the steamer is lost just because
it has run into a storm."

"I know, Senor Jack,"--for so she called him, "but zere is so much
danger.  And my father--he is languishing in prison."

"Yes, but we'll have him out.  Mr. Robinson didn't take those papers
with him; did he--those papers that contain the evidence?"

"No, I have them--he has only ze copies."

"Well, then you needn't worry.  When this storm blows over, we'll all
get busy on this rescue business!" and Jack spoke with a return of
his old energy.  He was becoming more like himself every day now, and
even the stress and danger of the storm had no hampering effects on
him.

"Oh, you Americans!" exclaimed Inez, with a pretty pathetic gesture.
"You speak of such queer English--to rescue is no business--it
demands intrigue--secrecy."

"Well, we'll make it our business," said Walter, grimly, "But, Inez,
don't scare the other girls.  We have troubles enough without that,
you know, with Mr. Robinson away.  Just make a bluff at feeling all
right."

"A bluff, Senor--a bluff--a high hill--I am to make a high hill of
feeling good?" and she looked puzzled.

"Translate, Jack," begged Walter, hopelessly, and Jack, nothing
loath, took Inez off into a corner of the hotel parlor to explain.

But with all their assumed right-heartedness, the boys were finally
genuinely alarmed.  Indefinite reports came to the hotel of much
danger and damage to shipping, and several large steamers were said
to have gone on the reefs which abounded in that region of islands.
No direct news came of the Ramona.  In fact, she had not been
sighted, or spoken to, since leaving San Juan.

"Oh, if anything has happened to her!" sighed Cora.

"There's just as much chance that nothing has happened, as that there
has," declared Jack.  "She might have gone into any one of a dozen
harbors."

"I suppose so, but, somehow, I can't help worrying, Jack."

"I know, little girl," he said, sympathetically.

"But I oughtn't to trouble you," Cora went on.

"Are you really feeling any better, Jack?"

"Heaps; yes. Water and I are going out to have a look at the water
to-day.  We're tired of being cooped up here."

"Oh, I wish I could go!"

"Why not?  Come along.  It will do you girls good."

So it was arranged.  The girls, including Inez, donned rubber coats,
and, well wrapped up for it was chilling with the advent of rain,
they set forth from the hotel.

They made a struggling way to the sea wall, and there looked out over
a foaming waste of waters.  In one place where a sunken reef of coral
came close to the surface the waves beat and tore at it as though to
wrench it up, and cast it ashore.  There the sea boiled and seethed
in fury.

"A ship wouldn't last long' out there," said Walter, quietly.

"I should say not," agreed Jack.

On the beach the waves pounded with sullen fury, making a roar that
drowned the voices of the motor girls.  Cora and her chums clung to
one another as they leaned their bodies against the blast, and peered
through the mist.

"Isn't it awful," said Cora, with a shudder.

"Yes--for--for those who have to be out in it," spoke Bess, and,
though she mentioned no names, they all knew what she meant.



CHAPTER XIV

NEWS OF SHIPWRECK


Cora, with an impatient, nervous gesture, laid aside the piece of
lace upon which she was engaged.  The long, breathing sigh which
followed her rising from the chair, was audible across the room.

"What's the matter?" asked Bess, who, seated near a window, where the
light was best, was industriously engaged in mending a hole in one of
her silk stockings.  She held it off at arm's length, on her
spread-out hand, as if to judge whether the repair would show when
the article was worn.

"I just can't do another stitch!" Cora said.  "It makes me so--nervous."

"It's beautiful lace--a lovely pattern," spoke Belle, as she picked
it up from the table.  "I don't see how Inez carries them all in her
head," for Cora was working out a model set for her by the Spanish
girl.

"Nor I," said did Bess, "It's perfectly wonderful."

She glanced at Cora, who had gone to stand by another window to watch
for signs of clearing weather, that, of late, had come with more
certain promise.

"There!  I think that will do!" announced Bess, as she cut off the
silk thread.  "I wonder if we shall ever get to the point where we
can go without stockings, as the Spanish ladies do here."

"Do they?" asked Cora, absently.  "I hadn't noticed."

"They do indeed, my  dear," answered her chum.  "I read about it, but
I didn't believe it until Inez took us to call on Senora Malachita
the other day--Belle and I--you didn't come, you know."

"I remember."

"Well, my dear, positively she didn't have any stockings on--only
slippers, and she received us that way.  Belle and I had all we could
do not to laugh, and I wondered if she could be so poor that she
couldn't afford them, though her, house, was beautiful, and the
plaza, with its fountain and flowers, a perfect dream.

"But Inez told me that often even the well-to-do Spanish ladies here
don't wear stockings, unless they go to church or to a dance.  Even
then they don't put them on, sometimes, until just before they go
into the church.  We saw one, riding in on a donkey.  She stopped
just outside the church, and put on her stockings as calmly as though
they were gloves."

"Fancy!" cried Cora.

"Then you aren't going to follow that fashion?" asked Belle.

"No, indeed!" exclaimed the plump Bess, as she carefully inspected
the other stocking for a possible worn place.  She did not find it,
and sighed in content.

"Aren't you going to finish that lace, Cora?" asked Belle.

"Not now, at any rate.  I just can't sit here and--wait!  I want to
be doing something."

"But there's nothing to do, dear," objected Belle.  "We can't do
anything but wait for news of them.  And no news is always good news,
you know."

"Just because it has to be!" retorted Cora.

"But, girls, positively, I believe the weather is clearing!  Yes,
there's a blue patch of sky.  Oh, if this storm should be over!"

Her two chums came and stood by her at the casement.  Off to the west
the dark and sullen sky did seem to be clearing.  The rain had ceased
some time ago, but the wind was still blowing half a gale, and the
boys, who had come back from the docks a short while before, reported
that the sea was still very high, and that no ships had ventured to
leave the harbor.  Then Jack and Walter went out again, saying they
were going to the marina, the water plaza.

"Oh, but it is going to clear!" cried Cora, in delight, an hour or so
later.  "Now we shall hear some news of them!"

"Won't it be lovely!" exclaimed Bess.  "Oh, I have been so worried!"

"So have I," admitted her sister.  "But of course they are safe!"

"Of course," echoed Cora, and yet there was a vague fear within her--a
fear that, somehow or other, in spite of her effort for self-control,
communicated itself to her voice.

"Let's go out,"' suggested Belle.  "I'm tired of being cooped up
here."

"Where are the boys?" asked Cora.  "Really we oughtn't to go out so
much without them.  We'll become talked about!"

"Never!" laughed Bess.  "We are Americans, and everything is possible
to us."

The others laughed.  Before coming to Porto Rico, they had read books
about the island, in which stress was laid on Spanish customs,
especially about ladies going about without a male member of their
family, or some one to serve as a duenna.  But our friends were too
sensible to be hampered by that custom, save at night.

"The boys are probably off enjoying themselves," said Cora.  "Jack is
so much better.  It has done him a world of good down here.  We may
meet them.  Come on, let's go out.  Oh, there's the sun!"

It was shining for the first time since the storm began, and the
girls hastened to take advantage of it.

"Where's Inez?" asked Belle.

"Lying down, she had a little headache," explained Bess.  "We won't
disturb her, and we won't be gone long."

There was a great outpouring of the inhabitants, all anxious to take
advantage of the clearing of the storm, and the streets were soon
crowded.  The girls went down to the sea wall, at a point where Jack
and Walter had made a habit of taking observations from time to time,
and there they found the chums.

"Welcome to our city!" laughed Walter, as he greeted the girls.
"Won't you come and have something cool to drink?  It's going to be
insufferably hot!"

And so it promised after the storm, for the sun, coming out with
almost tropical warmth, after all the moisture, was fairly sizzling
now.

"It sounds nice," spoke Cora.  "Oh, Jack, do you think we can get any
news of the steamer soon?"

"I think so, Sis.  Let's go round by the Morro, and see what the
semaphore says."

At the ancient Spanish fort flags were displayed to signal the
expected arrival of steamers.

The little party found a refreshment booth and enjoyed the iced and
flavored cocoanut milk, which made a most delightful beverage.  Then,
going on to the fort, they saw, fluttering in the breeze that had
succeeded the hurricane, the flags that told of the approach of a
steamer.

"I--I hope it brings news," said Cora, softly.

"Good news," supplemented Belie.

"Of course," added her sister.

They strolled back to the marina, the business quarter of the town,
fronting directly on the water.  There, in the activities of the
owners of several motor launches, was read the further news of the
approach of the first steamer since the storm.  The lighters were
getting ready to go out to bring ashore the passengers and freight.

As it would probably be some time before the ship came to anchor out
in the harbor, the boys and girls went back to the hotel, for it was
approaching the dinner hour.

In spite of their anxiety to receive any possible news of the Ramona,
which the incoming steamer might bring, the girls went to their rooms
for a siesta after the meal--a habit that had really been forced on
them, not only by the customs, but by the climate of the place.  It
was actually too warm to go about in the middle of the day, and
especially now, since the sun had come out exceedingly hot after the
storm.  Jack and Walter, however, declared that they were going down
to the marina to get the earliest possible news.

As it chanced, the girls remaining at the hotel were the first to
hear that which made so great a difference to them.

Cora, Bess and Belle, with Inez, whose head had stopped aching, came
down about four o'clock, dressed for a stroll.  There was to be a
band concert in one of the public park--the first in several days.

As they went up to the desk to leave their keys, they saw standing
talking to the clerk a very stout man, at the sight of whom Inez drew
back behind Cora.

"It is him--him again," she whispered.

"Who?"

"Zat man--Senor Ramo--I do not like zat he should see me."

"Oh, you mustn't be so timid," declared Jack's sister.  "He won't
harm you."

"No, but my father--"

"I think you are mistaken, Inez!" went on Cora.  "At any rate, he has
seen us--he remembers us as from having come out on the same steamer
with us," for Senor Ramo was now bowing, and is smile spread itself
over his oily and expansive countenance.

"Ah, Senorita Kembull!" he mispronounced.  "I am charmed to see you
again.  Also the Senoritas Sparrow--er--I am so forget--I know it is
some kind of one of your charming birds--ah!--Robinson--a thousand
pardons!  I am charmed!" and he bowed low to the twins.

Then his eyes sought the face of Inez, but he showed no recognition,
though the significant pause indicated that he expected also to
address her.  Clearly, if he had seen her on the steamer coming from
New York, he did not remember her.  There was a questioning look in
his eyes.

Inez pinched Cora's arm, and murmured something in her ear.  Cora
understood at once.  Inez did not wish to meet this man, for reasons
of her own.  He might, or might not, be of the political party
opposed to her father, and he might, or might not, have had a hand in
placing Senor Ralcanto in prison.  Of this Cora could only guess, but
there was no mistaking the fear of Inez.

Cora thought of the easiest way out of it.  This was to allow Inez to
assume the character she had been given--that of a maid.

"Inez, I think I left my fan in my room--will you please get it for
me?" requested Cora, at the same time giving the Spanish girl a
meaning look.

"Yes, Senorita," was the low-voiced answer, as Inez glided from the
foyer.

Senor Ramo seemed to understand.  He turned, once more, with a smile
to Cora.

"And when may I have the pleasure of paying my respects to your
honored mother?" he asked, "and to Senora--er--Robinson, and your
father?" he inquired of the twins.  "I have but just arrived, after a
most stormy passage, from Barbados.  Truly I thought we were lost,
but we managed to weather the hurricane."

"And we are hoping our folks did, too," said Cora.  "We have heard
nothing of them since they sailed on the Ramona, nearly a week ago.
Did your steamer hear of that vessel, Senor Ramo?" she asked,
eagerly.

"The Ramona did you say?" he inquired, and there was that in his
manner which sent a cold chill of fear to the hearts of the motor
girls.

"Yes," answered Cora, huskily.  "Oh, has anything happened?  Have you
heard any news?  Tell me!  Oh!" and she clutched at her wildly
beating heart.

"The Ramona--a thousand pardons that I am the bearer of ill-tidings--the
Ramona was shipwrecked!" said Senor Ramo.  "We picked up some of
the sailors from it!  Ah, deeply do I regret to have to tell you such
news!"



CHAPTER XV

A SEARCH PROPOSED


"Cora, what's the matter?  Has this man--?"

It was Jack who spoke, as he suddenly entered the rotunda of the
hotel, with Walter, and saw his sister faintly recoiling from the
shock of the news brought by Senor Ramo.  Jack had a bit of fiery
temper, and it had not lessened by his recent nervousness.  Then,
too, he seemed to have caught some of the Spanish impetuosity since
coming to Porto Rico.

"Hush, Jack!" begged Belie.  "It is bad news," and there was a trace
of tears in her voice.

"Bad news?" chorused Jack and Walter together.

"Yes, Senor Kembull," again mispronounced the Spaniard, "I deeply
regret to be the bearer of ill-tidings.  I was just telling your
sister, and her friends, that the Ramona has been wrecked."

"The Ramona--the steamer mother sailed on--wrecked?" cried Jack.
"How did it happen--where?"

"As to where, I know not, but it happened, I assume, in the recent
hurricane.  Indeed, we barely escaped ourselves.  I am just in from
the Boldero.  We picked up some refugees near St. Kitts.  I did not
hear their story in detail, but they said the Ramona had foundered
with all on board!"

"Oh!" gasped Belle, as she sank against Cora.  The latter, meanwhile,
had somewhat recovered from the shock.  Again she was the
quick-thinking, emergency-acting Cora Kimball.

"We must find out exactly what happened," she said.  "Belle, pull
yourself together.  Don't you dare faint--everyone is looking at
you!"

Perhaps this information, as much as the bottle of ammonia smelling
salts, which Cora thrust beneath the nose of her chum, brought Belle
to a realization of what part she must play.

"I--I'm all right now," she faltered.  "But, oh!  It is so awful--terrible.
Oh--dear!"

"Hope for the best," said Walter kindly, leading her to the ladies'
parlor, which was screened, by a grill, from the public foyer.
"Often, now a days, in shipwreck, nearly all are saved, even if the
vessel does founder."

"Of a surety--yes!" Senor Ramo hastened to put in.  "I am a stupid to
blurt out my news so, but I did not think!  I ask a thousand and one
pardons."

"It doesn't matter," said Jack.  "We had to know sometime.  The
sooner the better.  We must get busy."

"Always busy--you Americans!" murmured the Spaniard.  "If I can be of
any service, Senor Kembull--"

"You can take us, to where those sailors are that were picked up by
your vessel, if you will," interrupted Jack.  "I'd like to hear their
story, and find out exactly where the Ramona went down.  That is, if
it is true that she completely foundered."

"Why, if I may ask?"

"Because, this is only the beginning.  There may be a chance of
saving some--our folks--if, by any possibility they reached some of
the smaller islands.  I must see those sailors."

"They will most likely remain aboard the Boldero--the vessel on which
I arrived," spoke Senor Ramo.  "They lost everything but the clothes
they wore.  Doubtless you could see them on the steamer."

"Then I'm going with you!" cried Cora.  "I can't wait, Jack!" she
pleaded, as he looked a refusal at her.  "I must go!"

"Oh, poor mamma and papa!" half sobbed Bess, for they were now in the
seclusion of the ladies' parlor.  "Oh, what will become of us?"

"You mustn't give way like this!" objected Jack.  "Now, if ever, is
the time to be brave.  There is lots to be done!"

Jack was coming into his own again.  The trip had worked wonders, but
just this touch and spice of danger was needed to bring out his old
energetic qualities.

"What can be done?" asked Cora.

"I don't know, yet.  I'm going to find out.  Maybe it isn't so bad as
it sounds after all," replied Jack.

"It sounds bad enough," sighed Cora.  "But, Jack, I am with you in
this.  I simply won't be left out."

"And no one wants to leave you out, Sis.  Walter, just see if we can
get a carriage, or a motor, to the marina.  We'll take a boat from
there out to the Boldero."

"I will give you a letter to the captain," said Senor Ramo.  "He
knows me well, and he will show you every courtesy."

"Surely," thought Cora, "this man cannot be a political plotter, who
would put innocent men in prison.  Inez must be mistaken about him.
He is very kind."

Some little excitement was caused by the advent of the bad news to
our party of friends, and it quickly spread through the hotel.  A
number of the guests, whose acquaintance the motorgirls had made,
offered their services, but there was little they could do.  What was
most needed was information concerning the wreck.

Inez, who had made the getting of Cora's fan an excuse to go to her
room, to escape Senor Ramo, heard the sad tidings, and came down.  By
this time the "fat suspect," as Jack had nicknamed him, had gone,
having scribbled a note of introduction to the captain of the
Boldero.

"Oh, what is it, Senoritas?" gasped Inez.  "Is it zat you are in
sorrow?"

"Yes," said Cora, sadly.  "Great sorrow, Inez.  We have had very bad
news," and there were tears in her eyes.

"I sorrow with you," said the impulsive Spanish girl, as she put her
arm about Cora.  "I was in sorrow myself, and you aided me.  Now I
must do ze same for you.  Command me."

"There is little that can be done until we learn more," Cora made
answer.  "The steamer has been wrecked."

"With Senor Robinson, and with the Senoras Kimball and Robinson?"
gasped Inez.

"So we hear."

"Ah, zat is indeed of great sorrow.  I weep for you.  My own little
troubles are a nothing.  My father may be in prison, but what of zat--he
is living--and your mother--"

She did not finish.  Walter came in to announce that he had secured a
large auto that would take them to the marina, whence they could get
a boat to go out to the steamer.

"I only hope those sailors haven't disappeared," murmured Jack.  "Now
then, are you girls ready?"

"Yes," answered Belle.  She, as well as Cora and Bess, had somewhat
recovered their composure, after the first sudden shock.  Hope had
sprung up again, though they were presently to learn on what a
slender thread that hope hung.  Jack had regained some of his former
commanding manner in the emergency.

Inez went with her new friends to the docks.  She seemed to have
forgotten her own grief in ministering to the girls, and much of her
former timid and shrinking manner had disappeared.

They found a large and powerful motor boat that would take them out
to the ship, and, indeed, a staunch craft was needed, since there was
still a heavy swell on, from the recent storm.

"Are there many boats like this in San Juan?" asked Jack of the man
at the wheel, who spoke very good English.

"Not many.  There's only one as good, and that's much larger.  She's
the Tartar--and she's a beauty!"

"For charter?"

"Well, maybe.  The same man owns her as owns this one, but only large
parties engage her."

"Fast and seaworthy?"

"None better."

"That's good," Jack said.

"What are you thinking of?" asked his sister.

"Tell you later," he announced briefly.

"Oh, if it wasn't for the terrible news, how lovely this trip would
be!" exclaimed Bess.

They were gliding over the deep, blue waters of the bay, and the
golden setting sun now shone aslant the harbor, pouring its beams
over the tops of the distant mountains, and through the palm
branches.  A promise of fair weather followed on the wings of the
storm.

Whatever Senor Ramo might, or might not be, he certainly procured a
welcome for our friends at the Boldero.  Or, rather, the note Jack
presented to the captain did.

"Ah, yes, you desire news of the shipwrecked sailors.  Well, they are
still here on board.  One of them is hurt, but the other can talk.
But they speak no English--I had better translate for you."

"First tell us what you know yourself, Captain," begged Cora.

"I know little, except what I have heard, of the foundering of the
Ramona," was the answer.

"Then you think she did go down?" asked Bess.

"I fear so--the sailors we picked up so affirm.  All I can tell you
is that, a day or so ago, as we were staggering along through the
stress of the storm, the lookout sighted a small boat.  No signs of
life aboard were seen, but we stopped and picked it up.  In the
craft, which was one of the lifeboats from the Ramona, were two
sailors, nearly dead from exposure, and one from hurts received."

"How was he hurt?"' asked Jack.

"He was shot, Senor."

"Shot!"

"Yes, it appears there was mutiny aboard the Ramona, as well as the
horrors of the storm and shipwreck."

"Mutiny!" murmured Cora, a look of horror in her eyes.  "Poor, poor
mother!"

"You had better hear the story directly from the sailors," suggested
Captain Ponchero.  "I will summon the unwounded one.  You will find
that more satisfactory."

He came, a sorry and unfortunate specimen of a Spanish sailor.  There
followed a rapid talk, in the Castilian tongue, between him and the
captain, and the latter then said:

"His story is this.  They ran into the storm soon after leaving San
Juan, and could not find, or, rather, did not dare to try, for the
nearest harbor, as the seas were running too high to make it safe to
go through the narrow entrance.  They had to keep on, and this caused
discontent among some of the crew.

"There was an uprising--a mutiny, and some of them tried to leave in
the boats.  The brave captain would not let them, but he was
overpowered, and the mutineers, in the face of certain danger, turned
the ship to put back to a harbor which the captain had passed because
of the danger of trying to enter it in the storm."

"But how did the sailor get shot?" asked Jack.

"He worked against the mutineers--he and his comrade here," the
captain answered.  "Then those who had revolted, and seized the ship,
ordered into small boats all who would not throw in their lot with
them.  So these two, with only a little food and water, were put
adrift in the storm.   It was almost certain death, but the boat
lived through it, and we saved them."

"But what of the ship--the passengers?" asked Cora.

"The ship most certainly foundered," declared the captain.  "The next
morning bits of wreckage were found by these two survivors."

"Then all are lost?" half-sobbed Belle.

"I fear so, Senorita," was the answer of the captain, "unless some
few reached islands in small boats."

"Is there a chance of that?" asked Jack.

"A slight chance, yes, Senor."

"Then it's a chance I'm going to take!" cried Jack.

"What do you mean?" asked his sister, wonderingly.

"I mean that we can go in search!" Jack went on, eagerly.  "It's
worth trying, isn't it, Walter?"

"I should say so--yes, by all means!  But what sort of a craft can we
get to cruise in?"

"I just heard of one!" said Jack, eagerly.  "The Tartar.  She's a big
motor boat, and will be just the thing for us.  I'm going to see
about it right away.  Who's with me for a cruise in the Tartar?"

"I am!" came from Cora.

"We're not going to be left behind," said Bess.

"Count on me, of course," spoke Walter, quietly.

"And, Senor Jack--may--may I go?" faltered Inez.

"Of course!"

"Senor--Senor Jack," she spoke in a tremulous whisper.  "If you are
successful--if you find ze lost ones, and we are near Sea Horse
Island, would you leave me zere--wiz my father?"

"Leave you there?" cried Jack.  "We'll bring your father away from
there, if we get the chance!  Now come on!  We have lots to do!"



CHAPTER XVI

SENOR RAMO MISSING


Jack's eyes glowed with the brightness of renewed health, and
determination, as he looked at his sister, at Bess and Belle, and at
Walter.  It was like old times, when the motor girls had proposed
some novel or daring plan, and the boys had fallen in with it.  This
time it had been Jack's privilege to make the suggestion, and the
others were only too ready to agree.

"Oh, Jack, do you think we can do it?" asked Cora.

"Of course we can!" her brother cried, with a growing, instead of
lessening, enthusiasm.  "We'll just have to do something, and I can't
think of anything better to do--can you? than going off in search of
the folks."

"We simply must find them--if they're alive," spoke Bess, rather
solemnly.

"We'll find them--alive!" predicted Walter, joining his cheerful
efforts to those of his college chum.

"Oh, you Americans--you are so wonderful, so amazing!" whispered
Inez.  "I am so glad I am wiz you," and she divided her affectionate
looks impartially between Jack and his sister.

"What do you think of it, Captain?" asked Walter of the skipper of
the steamship.  "Is it possible to go about down among these islands
in a big motor boat?"

"Yes, if the boat be large enough, and seaworthy."

"I'm thinking of the Tartar," said Jack.  "I heard of her from the
engineer of the boat we came out in just now."

"Oh, the Tartar.  Yes, she is a very fine boat, and quite safe,
except in a very bad storm."

"Oh!" gasped Bess.

"But you are not likely to have bad blows now," the captain went on,
"especially after this one we've just passed through.  It is the last
of the hurricane season, I hope.  In fact, this was most unusual.
Yes, I should say it would be very safe to make a cruise in the
Tartar.  I know the craft well."

"And what are the chances of success?" asked Walter in a low voice of
the commander, as Jack, with his sister and the Robinson twins
withdrew a little apart to discuss the important question of the
coming cruise.

Captain Ponchero shrugged his shoulders in truly foreign fashion.

"One cannot tell, Senor," he said in a low voice.  "Certainly it is a
dubious tale the sailors told--a tale of mutiny and shipwreck.  But
the sea is a strange place.  Many unforeseen things happen on it and
in it.  I have seen shipwrecked ones come back from almost certain
death, and again--"

He hesitated.

"Well?" asked Walter, a bit impatiently.  "Might as well hear the
worst with the best."

"And again," resumed the captain, "I have seen what would appear to
be the safest voyage result in terrible tragedy.  So one who knows
much of the sea, hesitates to speak with certainty about it.  I
should say, Senor, that the chance was worth taking."

"Then we may find some of them alive?"

"You may, and again--you may not.  But it is worth trying.  If you
will come below with me, I will give you the exact longitude and
latitude where we picked up the two sailors in the open boat.  Then
you can put for there, and make it the starting point of your
search."

"Good idea," commented Walter.

By this time Jack and the others had finished their little
discussion, and were eager to further question the captain concerning
all the details he could give about the foundering of the Ramona.
But there was little else that could be told.

The sailors had given all the information they possessed.  They
repeated again how the ship had suddenly run into a storm, and how
the refusal of the captain to put into a port, hard to navigate in a
storm, brought on the mutiny.

"But did they see any of our folks--either Mr. and Mrs. Robinson, or
Mrs. Kimball?" asked Jack, while his sister and the twins hung
breathless on the answer.

The sailors had not especially noticed any passengers.  They had been
in hard enough straits themselves, not having joined the mutineers.

"But they are certain the ship foundered? asked Cora.

"There seems to be little doubt of it, Senorita," said the captain.
"It was a fearful storm.  We had three boats carried away, as well as
part of our port rail."

The weather was calm enough now, save for a heavy ground swell.  The
waters were marvelously blue, and overhead was the blue sky.  Seen
against the background of the wonderfully tinted hills of palms, the
city of San Juan presented a most beautiful picture.

"Well, let's get busy," suggested Jack, and it was only by keeping
thus occupied, mentally and physically, that he and his sister, as
well as the twins, were enabled not to succumb to the grief that
racked them.  Belle, rather more nervous and temperamental than her
sister, did give way to a little hysterical crying spell, as they
were on their way back to the marina from the steamer, but this was
due merely to a reaction.

"Don't, dear," said Cora, softly.  "We'll find them, never fear!"

She put her arms about her chum, and Inez slipped a slim brown hand
into one of Belles.  Then the wave of emotion passed, and the girl
was herself again.

"Are you going out for a long cruise?" asked Walter, "or shall you
come back to San Juan from time to time?  I ask, because I want to
send word to my folks not to worry, if they don't hear from me very
often."

"I think we'll cruise as long as we can," said Cora, who had assumed
as much of the burden of the search as had her brother.  "If the
Tartar is large enough to allow us to take a big enough supply--of
provisions and stores, we'll cruise until we--well, until we find out
for certain what has happened."

Her voice faltered a little.

"Oh, the Tartar's big enough, Senorita," said the engineer of the
motor boat in which they were making their way to shore.  "You could
go for a long cruise in her."

"Then we'll plan that," declared Jack.  "Notify your folks
accordingly, Wally."

"I shall.  But you'll have to have help along, if she's as big as all
that, won't you?"

"I suppose so," agreed Jack.  "I'm not altogether up to the mark, if
it comes to tinkering with a big, balky motor."

"I'd like to go as engineer," said the man at the wheel.  "I've often
run her, and I know her ways.  If you were to ask the owner, Senor
Hendos, he'd let me go."

The young people had taken a liking to Joe Alcandor, the obliging
young engineer of the motor boat they had engaged to go out to the
steamer, and Jack made up his mind, since he had to have help aboard
the Tartar, to get this individual.

"This is a strange ending to our happy holiday," said Cora, with a
sigh, as they left the boat and walked up the steps at the water's
edge of the marina.  The outing, up to now, had been a most happy
one, once Jack's improvement in health was noticed.

"It hasn't ended yet," said Jack, significantly.  "There's more ahead
of us than behind us."

"I hope more happiness," said Cora, softly.

"Of course," whispered Jack.

They told Joe they would see Senor Hendos, and arrange with him for
chartering the Tartar.  Then, in two hacks, they made their way back
to the hotel.  All of them were anxious to get started on the cruise
that might mean so much.  "Do you really mean you'll take me wiz
you?" asked Inez, of Cora, as they entered the hotel.

"Of course, my dear!  I wouldn't think of leaving you," was the warm
answer.  "And we need you with us.  Besides, you heard what Jack said
about your father."

"Oh, will he try to rescue him?"

"I'm sure he will, if it's at all possible."

Something of the news concerning the young Americans was soon current
in the hotel, and Cora and her friends were favored with many strange
glances, as they walked through the foyer.

"We must thank Senor Ramo for his kindness in giving us the note to
the captain,"' said Cora, ever thoughtful of the nice little
courtesies of life.

"Indeed we must," agreed Belle, who had quite recovered her
composure, and, save for a suspicious redness of the eyes, showed
little of the grief at her heart.

Indeed, they were all rather stunned by the suddenness of the news,
and only for the fact that under it lay a great hope, they would not
have been able to hear up as well as they did.

The blow was a terrible one--to think that their loved ones were lost
in a shipwreck!  But there was that merciful hope--that eternal hope,
ever springing up to take away the bitterness of death or despair.

There was, too, the necessity of work--hard work, if they were to go
off on an unknown and uncertain cruise.  And work is, perhaps, even
better than hope, to mitigate grief.

So, though the sorrow would have been a terrible one, and almost
unbearable, were it not for the ray of light and hope, they were able
to hold themselves well together--these young Americans in a strange
land.

"Jack, perhaps you had better go and thank Senor Ramo at once,"
suggested Cora.  "He may be able to give you some good advice, too,
about fitting up the Tartar for the cruise.  He seems to know a great
deal about these islands."

"I'll see him at once," agreed her brother.  "Just send up my card to
him, please," he requested the hotel clerk.

"To whom, Senor?"

"To Mr. Ramo."

"But he is not here--he is gone!"

"Gone?" Jack looked at the clerk blankly.

"Yes.  He left, Senor, soon after you went away.  He said business
called him."

"That is strange," murmured Jack.

Inez, who had heard what was said, looked curiously at Cora, and then
exclaimed:

"Ze papairs--for my father's release!"

A look of alarm showed in her face, as she hurried toward the
stairway that led to her room.



CHAPTER XVII

OFF IN THE "TARTAR"


"What's the matter?" asked Walter, quickly, as he saw Inez hurrying
away.  "She see alarmed about something."

"She is--or fancies she is," answered Cora.  "It's about those papers
which she hopes will free her father of that political charge which
keeps him locked up--poor man."

"Did she lose them?"

"No, but as soon as she heard that Senor Ramo had left suddenly, she
associated it with the taking of her documents, evidently."

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Walter.

"That's what I say," added Cora.  "But we mustn't make fun of
Inez--she can't bear it."

"Of course not.  Besides, I guess none of us feel very much like
making fun," went on Walter.

"Our thanks to Senor Ramo will have to wait," said Jack, as he turned
away from the hotel desk to rejoin his party.  "And now let's get
together, see what we have to take with us, and plan our cruise.
I'll look up this man Hendos, who owns the Tartar, and see what
arrangements I can make with him.  Where's Inez?"

"Gone to her room," answered Cora.  "I fancy we'd all better get
ready for dinner.  It's getting late."

They went up stairs, leaving the buzz of much talk behind them, for
many of the hotel guests were speaking of the news concerning our
friends.

As Cora was entering her apartment, Inez came out into the corridor
in front of her room.

"Zey are gone, Senorita!" she gasped.

"Gone!"

"What?" asked Cora, half forgetting, in her own grief and anxiety,
what the Spanish girl had gone to ascertain.

"My papairs--for my father!  Oh, Senorita, what shall I do?"

"Gone?" echoed Cora.  "Do you mean taken--stolen?"

"I fear so--yes.  See, my room has been entered."

There was no doubt of it.  A hasty glance showed Cora that, in the
absence of Inez, her hotel room had been gone over quickly, but
thoroughly.  A small, empty valise, which Inez had trustingly hidden
under the mattress of the bed lay on the floor, open.  It had
contained the papers which were so precious to her.  Now they were
gone--that was evident.

"Oh, Inez!" cried Cora, and in such a voice that Jack, who was just
coming along with Walter, hurried up, inquiring:

"What is it?  What's the matter?"

"Those papers Inez had, have been stolen!" cried Cora.  "And Senor
Ramo is missing--has fled--"

"Hold on!" exclaimed Jack, laying a cautioning finger on his sister's
lips.  "It won't do to make such rash statements, and draw such
damaging conclusions--in such a loud voice, Sis," and he whispered
the last words.  "These walls are very thin, you know, and these
Spanish gentlemen are very punctilious on points of honor.  I don't
want to be called on to fight a duel on your behalf."

"Oh, Jack, how can you!  Such a poor joke!"

"Not a joke at all, I assure you.  Now let's have the whole
story--but in here," and Jack drew his sister and Inez into the room
of the Spanish girl, Walter following.  Bess and Belle had gone into
their own apartments a little before, and had not heard, the talk.

"Just in time," murmured Jack, as he closed the door, having a
glimpse of a servant coming along the corridor.  "Now, what is it,
Inez?" and, after a quick glance about the ransacked apartment, he
gazed at the girl.

"My papairs--for my father--zey are gone!"  With a tragic gesture she
pointed to the opened valise.

"Was your room this way when you came in?" asked Walter, who rather
imagined he was gifted with amateur detective abilities.

"Just like this--yes, Senor Jack."

"Never mind the senor.  Just plain Jack will do.  And where were the
papers?"

"In the valise--in my bed.  But they are gone."

There was no doubt of that--also no doubt of the fact that Senor
Ramo--the man who was suspected by Inez of being in the plot to keep
her father in the political prison--was likewise missing.

"Hum," mused Jack.  "It may be merely a coincidence--or it may not."

"I should say it was not!" declared Walter, positively.

"And get into trouble saying it, Wally," remarked Jack.  "No, the
best thing to do in this case is to keep quiet about it."

"But my papairs!" cried Inez.  "My father--in prison.  I must get him
out."

"Yes, and I think you can best do it by not letting it be known that
you have discovered the theft," Jack said.

"I think that's silly," declared Cora.  "Whoever took those papers
can't help but know, that their loss would be discovered at once.
The condition the room was left in would make that certain.  I can't
see what good it is to keep quiet about it."

"I'll explain," Jack went on.  "The person who did the robbery of
course knows he, or she, did it, and knows that we won't be long in
finding it out.  But the hotel people don't know it yet, nor the
guests, and it's possible to keep it from them.  They're the ones who
will do the talking.  Fortunately, the newspapers here aren't like
those up home.  There won't be any reporters after us, if we keep
still."

"But what's the advantage of it?" asked Cora.

"To puzzle and alarm the thief," was Jack's answer.  "No doubt he--for
I'll assume for the sake of argument that it was a man--will be
looking for a hue and cry.  He'll expect it, and when it doesn't
come, he'll begin to imagine all sort of things."

"I see!" cried Walter.  "He'll believe we are on his trail, have a
clue and--"

"Exactly!" interrupted Jack.  "You're a regular 'deteckertiff,'
Wally.  That's my game, to puzzle the thief, make him think all sort
of things, and so worry him by our very quietness, that he may betray
himself."

"Well, maybe that's the best plan," agreed Cora, rather doubtfully.

"But how shall I get my papairs back?" asked Inez, falteringly.  "Ze
papairs are needed to get my poor father from prison."

"Maybe not," said Jack, hopefully.  "Anyhow, there are copies to be
had, aren't there?"

"Yes, but zese were ze originals.  I need zem!"

"And we'll get them back for you, if we can," broke in Jack.  "We may
be able to work without them, if we have a chance to get to Sea Horse
Island on our cruise.  I think our first duty is to try to find the
missing ones."

"Oh, of course, yes, Senor!" cried Inez, quickly.  "I should not
intrude my poor troubles on you."

"Oh, that's all right," said Jack, good-naturedly.  "We have a pretty
big contract on our hands, and one trouble more or less isn't going
to make much difference.  Now don't forget--every body mum on this
robbery.  We'll puzzle the thief!"

"Do you think it, was Ramo?" asked Cora.

"I don't know.  If he had any object in getting those papers we gave
him the very chance he needed by all being away from the hotel,"
answered Jack.  "And, if it wasn't he, it was some one else who has
an object in keeping Mr. Ralcanto in jail.  He'd have the same chance
as Ramo had to get the documents.  So the person we must look for is
some one who really needed the papers.  But, above all, we'll have to
be cautious in making inquiries."

"Yes," agreed Cora.  "Could you find out when Ramo left, and if he
was near this section of the hotel?"

"I'll try," agreed Jack.  "Now you girls begin to sort out the things
you want to take along on the cruise.  Cora, speak to Bess and Belle
about it."

"Why, aren't we going to take all our baggage?"

"What!  Fill the Tartar up with trunks full of fancy dresses, when
we'll need every inch of room?  I guess not!  We'll all get down to
light marching equipment.  Just take what you can put in a suit-case.
That's what Wally and I are going to do."

"Oh, but boys are so different; aren't they, Inez?"

"It matters not to me.  A few things are all I have."

The Spanish girl looked helplessly and almost hopelessly at the
opened valise.  And then, as Jack and Walter went out to and what
they could learn by cautious questions, the two girls "tidied up" the
room, and went to tell Bess and Belle the news.

Jack and Walter could learn but little.  Senor Ramo had departed
suddenly, alleging a business call as an excuse for leaving the
island on a steamer that sailed soon after the arrival of the one he
had come in on.  That was about all that could be safely learned.

Little else could be done, now, toward making plans for the rescue of
the father of Inez.  When Mr. Robinson was located, he might have
something to suggest, but now all energies must be bent on the rescue
work.

The news soon spread through the hotel that the "amazing Americans"
were about to undertake a most desperate venture--that of cruising
about in the blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, in search of their
relatives who might have been able to save themselves from the
wrecked ship.  After a first glance at the map, and a consideration
of the situation, Jack had voted for the inside, or Caribbean route,
as being less likely to offer danger from storms.

Satisfactory arrangements for chartering the Tartar were made, and
the engineer, Joe Alcandor, was engaged to look after the machinery,
which, on the Tartar, was not a little complicated.

"With him along we can be more at ease," said Cora.

"Yes, we won't always have to be worrying that one of the cylinders
is missing, or that a new spark plug is needed," added Bess.

"Oh, I do hope we can soon start!" sighed Belle.  "This suspense is
terrible!"

Indeed, it was not easy for any of them, but perhaps Walter and Jack
found it less irksome, for they were very busy preparing for the
cruise.

Plans were made to leave some of their baggage at the hotel in San
Juan, and the rest would be taken with them.  A goodly supply of
provisions and stores were put aboard, and a complete account of the
events leading up to the cruise, including the story of the missing
Ralcanto papers, was written out and forwarded to Mr. Robinson's
lawyers in New York.

"That's in case of accident to us," said Jack.

"Oh, don't speak of accidents!" cried Cora.

The last arrangements were completed.  Jack made final and guarded
inquiries, concerning Ramo, but learned nothing.  Then, one fine,
sunny morning in December, the little party of motor girls and their
friends, who had so often made motor boat trips on the lakes or
streams of their own country, set off in the Tartar for a cruise on
waters blue.

"All aboard!" cried Jack, with an assumption of gaiety he did not
feel.

"Oh, I wonder what lies before us?" murmured Cora.

"Courage, Senorita!  Perhaps--happiness," said Inez, softly.



CHAPTER XVIII

THE SHARK


Looking at a map of the West Indies, the reader, if he or she will
take that little trouble, will see that the many islands lay in a
sort of curved hook, extending from Cuba, the largest, down to
Tobago, one of the smallest, just off Trinidad.  In fact, Trinidad is
a little off-set of the end of the hook, and, for the purpose of this
illustration, need not be considered.

The problem, then, that confronted the motor girls, and, no less,
Jack and Walter, was to cruise in among these islands, in the hope of
finding, on one of them, Mrs. Kimball, and Mr. and Mrs. Robinson,
who, by great good fortune, might have been able to save themselves
from the wreck of the Ramona.

Looking at the map again, which is the last time I shall trouble you
to do so, the problem might not seem so hard, for there are not so
many islands shown.  The difficulty is that few maps show all of
them, and even on  the best of navigating maps there may be one or
two that are not charted.  The shipwrecked ones, providing they lived
to get off on a life raft, or in a boat, might as likely have been
driven to one of these little islands, as to a larger one.

"But we can cut out a lot of them," said Jack, when they were in the
cozy cabin of the Tartar, and he and his sister, with the others,
were bending over the charts.

"It's like this," Jack went on, pointing with a pencil to where Porto
Rico was shown, in shape and proportion not unlike a building brick.
"Our folks started for Guadeloupe--that's here," and he indicated the
island which bears not a little resemblance to an hour-glass on the
map.  Guadeloupe, in fact, consists of two islands, separated by a
narrow arm of the sea--Riviere Salee--which divides it by a channel
of from one hundred to four hundred feet in width.

"Whether they arrived is of course open to question," said Jack.
"I'm inclined to think they didn't, or we'd have heard from them.
The storm came before the ship got anywhere near there.  Now, then, I
think we shall have to look for them somewhere between Porto Rico and
Guadeloupe."

"Why not near St. Kitts?" asked Walter, covering with his finger the
little island that is included in the discoveries of Columbus.
"That's near where the two sailors were picked up," Walter went on.

"Yes--I think we ought to go there," agreed Jack.  "But it's only one
of many possible places where our folks may be.  It's going to be a
long cruise, I'm afraid."

"Where is Sea Horse Island?" asked Cora, as Inez flashed an appealing
look at her.

"Here," replied Jack, indicating a rather lonesome spot in the watery
waste, where no other islands showed.  "It's about half way between
Guadeloupe and Aves, or Bird Island.  Speaking sailor fashion, its
latitude is about sixteen degrees north of the equator, and the
longitude about sixty-two degrees, fifty-one minutes west."

"Oh, don't!" begged Bess.  "It reminds me of my school days.  I never
could tell the difference between latitude and longitude."

"Well, there's where Sea Horse Island is," went on Jack, "and if all
had gone well, Mr. Robinson hoped to gather orchids there.  Now--?"
he hesitated.

"And do you think we'll touch near there, Jack?" asked his sister.

"I'm going to try."

"Oh, it is so good of you!" murmured Inez.  "Perhaps we can save my
father."

"At any rate, they ought to allow you to see him," put in Walter.
"Political prisoners aren't supposed to be kept in solitary
confinement.  We'll have a try at him, anyhow; eh, Jack?"

"Sure.  Well, that's our problem--to search among these islands, and
I think we have the very boat to do it."

Indeed the Tartar was just what they could have desired.  It was a
powerful motor boat, and had been in commission only a short time.
It could weather a fairly big sea, or a heavy blow.  It had a
powerful motor, many comforts, and even some luxuries, including a
bathroom.

The engine was located forward, where there was a sleeping room for
the engineer, who could steer from a small pilot house.  Or the craft
could also be guided from the after deck, which was open.

There was a large enclosed space, variously divided into cabins and
staterooms.  A kitchen provided for ample meals, the cooking being
done by the exhausted and heated gases from the motor, which also
warmed the boat on the few days when the weather was rainy and
chilly.  When the motor was not running, a gasoline stove could be
used.

Adjoining the kitchen was the dining cabin, which had folding seats
that could be used for berths when more than could be accommodated in
the regular sleeping spaces were aboard.

There were two other cabins, fitted with folding berths, and the
smaller of these was apportioned to Jack and Walter, while the girls
took possession of the larger one.  In addition, there were ample
lockers and spaces for storing away food, and the other things they
had brought with them.  A considerable supply of gasoline had to be
carried, but there were several islands where more could be
purchased.

"Isn't it just the dearest boat!" murmured Belle, as she made a tour
of it, and had peeped into the engine compartment.

"It is," agreed her sister.  "Oh, Cora, wouldn't you just fairly love
to run that splendid motor?"

"I would, if I didn't have to start it too often," replied Jack's
sister, as she looked at the heavy flywheel, which was now moving
about as noiselessly as a shaft of light.  The propeller was not in
clutch, however.

"It has a self-starter," Joe informed the girls.  "It's the smoothest
engine ever handled.  No trouble at all."

"Better knock wood," suggested Jack.

"Eh?  Knock wood?" asked the engineer, evidently puzzled.

"Oh, Jack means to do that to take away any bad luck that might
follow your boast," laughed Cora.

"Oh, I see.  But I carry a charm," and Joe showed a queer black
pebble.  "I always have it with me."

"One superstition isn't much worse than the other," said Bess, with a
laugh.  "Now let's get settled.  Oh, Cora, did you bring any
safety-pins?  I meant to get a paper, but--"

"I have them," interrupted Belle.  "I fancy we won't have much time
to sew buttons on--or room to do it, either," she added, as she
squeezed herself into a corner of the tiny stateroom.

Suitcases had been stowed away, the boys had gotten their possessions
into what they called "ship-shape" order, and the Tartar was soon
chugging her way over the blue waters of the bay.

The route was to be around the eastern end of the island, taking the
narrow channel between Porto Rico and Vieques, and thus into the
Caribbean.  St. Croix was to be their first stop, though they did not
hope for much news from that Danish possession.

"Why don't you boys do some fishing?" asked Cora, as she and the
other girls came from their stateroom, where they had been putting
their things to rights.  "We won't have much but canned stuff to eat,
if you don't," she went on, addressing Jack and Walter, who sat on
the open after deck, under an awning that shaded them from the hot
December sun.

"That's so, we might," assented Jack.  "A nice tarpon now wouldn't go
bad."

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Walter.  "We haven't the outfit for tarpon
fishing.  If we get some red snappers, we'll be doing well."

The boys had brought along a fishing outfit, one of the simple sort
used in those waters, and as they baited their hooks, Jack said:

"Well, maybe I haven't the rod to catch a tarpon, but I can rig up a
line and hook that will do the business, maybe."

Accordingly he picked out what Joe said was a regular shark hook,
and, baiting it with a piece of canned meat, tossed it over the side,
fastening the line to the rail.

Then Jack forgot about it, for Walter had a bite almost as soon as he
cast in, and the two boys were soon pulling in red snappers
abundantly enough to insure several meals.

"Why don't you try your hand line," suggested Cora, as she went to
where it was tied to the rail.  "May be you'll get-a bite, Jack."

As she spoke, she felt on the heavy string, and, an instant later,
uttered a cry, for it was jerked from her hand with such force as to
skin her knuckles, and at the same time she cried:

"Jack!  Jack!  You've hooked a big shark!  Oh, what a monster!"



CHAPTER XIX

CRUISING DAYS


There was a sudden rush to see the tiger of the deep, of which Cora
had had a glimpse.  Walter, who was at the wheel, cried to Joe to
steer while he, too, ran to the rail.

"I don't see him," said Bess, as she peered down into the deep, blue
water.

"You'll see him in a minute," was Cora's opinion.  "He had just taken
the hook, I think, and he didn't like it.  He'll come into view
pretty soon."

Hardly had she spoken, than, while the others were looking at the
line, which was now unreeling from a spool on which it was wound, the
shark came suddenly to the surface, its big triangular fin appearing
first.

"There it is!" cried Cora.  "See it, Bess!"

"Oh, the monster!  I don't want to look at the horrible thing!"
screamed Bess, as she covered her eyes with her hands.

The shark swam close to the motor boat, and then with a threshing of
the water, and by wild leaps and bounds, sought to free himself from
the sharp hook.  But it had gone in too deep.

"No, you don't, old chap," cried Jack, as he took hold of the slack
of the line.

He regretted it the next instant, for the shark darted away with a
speed that made the tough string cut deep into Jack's palm.

"Oh!" he murmured, as he sprang back from the rail.

"Better be careful!" warned Joe.  "They're mighty strong."

"Oh, cut him loose!" urged Cora.  "Do, Walter!  We don't want him
aboard here."

"He'd be quite a curiosity," observed Jack's chum, as he helped
Cora's brother tie a rag around his cut and bleeding hand.  "We could
sell the fins to the Chinese for soup, and you might have a fan made
from the tail."

"No, thank you!  It's too horrible!" and Cora could not repress a
shudder as the big fish, once more, made a leap partly out of the
water, showing its immense size.

"Whew!" whistled Walter, for this was the first good view he had had
of the sea-tiger.  "We never can get him aboard, Jack.  Better do as
Cora says, and let him go."

"Oh, I didn't intend to have him as a pet," was the rueful answer of
Jack.  "I just wanted to see if I could catch one.  I'm satisfied to
let him go," and he looked down at his bandaged hand.

"Too bad to lose all that good line," mused Walter, "but we probably
won't want to do any more shark-fishing, so I'll cut it."

"I've seen enough of sharks," murmured Belle, who, with Inez, had
taken one glance, and then retreated to the cabin.

"These aren't regular man-eating sharks," affirmed Jack, after
Walter, with a blow from a heavy knife, had severed the line, letting
the shark swim away with the hook.

"Ah, but zey are, Senor!" exclaimed the Spanish girl.  "You should
hear the stories the natives tell of them."

"But I saw a bigger one not far from the harbor," insisted Jack, "and
it seemed almost tame."

"They are, near harbors," explained Cora.  "One of the ladies at the
hotel explained about that.  The harbor sharks live on what they get
near shore, stuff thrown overboard from boats, and they grow very
large and lazy.  But, farther out to sea, they don't get so much to
eat, and they'll take a hook and bait almost as soon as it's thrown
into the water.  The men sometimes go shark-fishing for sport."

"It might be sport, under the right circumstances," said Jack, with a
rueful laugh.  "Next time I'll know better, than to, handle a shark
line without gloves."

"So shall I," agreed Cora, as she looked at her skinned knuckles.

They had made a good catch of food fishes and the boys now proceeded
to get these ready for their first meal aboard, the girls agreeing to
cook them, and to set the table.

The meal was rather a merry one, in spite of the grief that hung over
the party--a grief occasioned by the fear of what might have befallen
Mrs. Kimball, as well as Mr. and Mrs. Robinson.

And yet, with all their sorrow, there was that never-failing ray of
hope.  Without it, the days would have been dismal indeed.

Joe ran the boat while the others were eating, and presently he
called into the dining compartment.

"Cape San Juan!" was his announcement.

"Have we sighted it?" asked Jack, referring to the north easternmost
point of Porto Rico.

"Just ahead of us," replied Joe, who was a skillful navigator of the
West Indian waters.  "You said you were going to change the course
there."

"Oh, yes.  We'll round the cape and go south, I think," went on Jack.
"A little more of that red snapper, Cora.  Whoever cooked it knew how
to do it," and he looked at Ben, while the others laughed.

"What's the joke?" Jack demanded, as he ate on, seemingly
unperturbed, though his cut hand made it rather awkward to handle his
knife and fork.

"Honor to whom honor is due," quoted Cora.

"It was Inez who cooked the fish.  It's in Spanish style."

"Good!" exclaimed Jack, as he flashed another look at Bess, with whom
he seemed to have some understanding.  "Whatever style it is, I'm for
it.  I don't care whether it has gores down the side, and plaits up
the middle, with frills around the ruffles, or whatever you call
them--it's good."

The others laughed, while Inez looked very much puzzled at Jack's
juggling of dressmaking terms.

"Is it zat I have put too much paprika on ze fith?" asked the Spanish
girl.

"No, Jack is just trying to be funny," explained Cora.  "He thinks
it's great--don't you, Jack?"

"What, to be funny?"

"No, to eat the fish," said Walter.

There was more laughter.  Little enough cause for it, perhaps, and
yet there seemed to come a sudden relaxation of the strain under
which they had all been laboring the last few days, and even a slight
excuse for merriment was welcomed.

So the meal went on, and a good one it was.  The motor girls, from
having gone on many outings, and from having done much camping, were
able to cook to satisfy even the sea-ravenous appetites of two young
men, although Jack was not exactly "up to the mark."

Then, too, the novelty of shifting for themselves, after being used
to the rather indolent luxury of a tropical hotel, made a welcome
change to them.  Joe had his meal after the others had finished, as
it was necessary for some one to stay at the wheel, for the Tartar
was slipping along through the blue water at a good rate of speed.

Cape San Juan was rounded, and then the prow of the powerful motor
boat was turned south, to navigate the often perilous passage between
Porto Rico and Vieques.

"Do you think we'll find any news at St. Croix?" asked Cora, of Jack,
in a low voice, when, after the meal, they found themselves for the
moment by themselves.

"Hard to say, Sis," he answered.  "I'm always living in hope, you
know."

"Yes, I suppose we must hope, Jack.  And yet, when I think of all
they may be suffering--starving, perhaps, on some uninhabited island,
it--it makes me shiver," and Cora glanced apprehensively across the
stretch of blue water as though she might, at any moment, sight the
lonely isle that served as a refuge for her mother, and for Mr. and
Mrs. Robinson.

"Don't think about it," advised the practical Jack.  "There are just
as many chances that the folks have been picked up, and taken to some
good island, as that they're on some bad one."

By the course they had laid, it was rather more than a hundred miles
from San Juan harbor to St. Croix, the Danish island, and as they
were going to make a careful search, and husband their supply of
gasoline as much as possible, they had set their average speed at ten
miles an hour.

"That will bring us to St. Croix early this evening," said Jack, for
they had started in the morning.  "We'll stay there all night, for I
don't much fancy motoring after dark in unknown waters."

"Neither do I," said Cora.

"And then there are the sharks!" murmured Belle.

"I won't let them get you!" said Walter, it such soothing tones as
one might use to a child.  "The bad sharks sha'n't get little Belle,"
and he pretended to slip an arm about her.

"Stop it!" commanded the blonde twin, with a deep blush as she fairly
squirmed out of reach.



CHAPTER XX

ANXIOUS NIGHTS


Dusk had begun to settle over the harbor of Christianstad, or Bassin,
as the capital of St. Croix is locally known, when the anchor of the
Tartar was dropped into the mud.  The boat had threaded its way
through a rather treacherous channel, caused by the then shallow
parts of the basin, and had come to rest not far from shore.

"What's the program?" asked Walter, as the motor ceased its
throbbing.

"We'll go ashore," said Jack, "and see what news we can learn.  I'm
not very hopeful, but we may pick up something."

"Back here to sleep?" Walter went on, questioningly.

"Oh, sure.  We want to start early in the morning.  And from now on,
we'll have plenty of stopping places, for there are many small
islands where survivors from the wreck might have landed."

"Is there anything to see here ashore?" asked Bess.  "If there is,
you might take us girls.  We don't want to be left alone."

"Well, I suppose it could be done," Jack assented.  "Only we'll have
to do it in two trips, for the small boat won't hold us all.  Too
risky, and there might be sharks here, Bess," and he made a motion
toward the waters of the harbor.

"Oh, how horrible!" she screamed.

A small rowboat was carried as part of the equipment of the Tartar,
but, at best, it could hold only four.  However, the boys and girls
were saved the necessity of making two trips from the motor boat to
shore, for a large launch, the pilot of which scented business, put
out to them from the landing wharf, and soon bargained to land them,
and bring them off again when they desired to come.  Joe would stay
aboard the Tartar.

The travelers found Christianstad to be a picturesque town, and in
certain parts of it there were many old buildings.  The Danish
governor was "in residence" then, and affairs were rather more lively
than usual.

"What's that queer smell?" asked Cora, as they were on their way to
the best hotel in the place, for there they intended making their
inquiries.

"Sugar factory," answered Jack.  "It's about all the business done
here--making sugar."

"How'd you know?" asked Belle.

"Oh, ask Little Willie whenever you want to know anything," laughed
Jack.  "Listen, my children!

"St. Croix is twenty-two miles long, and from one to six miles in
width.  It is inhabited by whites and blacks, the former sugar
planters, and the latter un-planters--that is, they gather the sugar
cane.

"St. Croix was discovered by Columbus in 1493, and at times the
Dutch, British and Spanish owned it.  In 1733 Denmark bought it, and
has owned it since.  The average temperature is--"

"That'll do you!" interrupted Walter.  "We can read a guide book as
well as you can.  Come again, Jack."

"Well, I thought you'd be wanting to know something about it, so I
primed myself," chuckled Jack.

Curious eyes regarded our friends as they reached the hotel.  Walter
and Jack left the girls in the parlor while they, themselves, went to
make inquiries at the office.  And more curious were the looks, when
it became known that Jack and the others were seeking traces of those
wrecked on the Ramona.

Curious looks, indeed, were about all the satisfaction that was had.
For no news--not the most vague rumor--had come in regarding the
ill-fated vessel.  The wreck had not even been heard of, for news
from the outside world sometimes filtered slowly to St. Croix.

"Well, that's our first failure," announced Jack, as, with Walter, he
rejoined the girls.  "We must expect that.  If we found them at our
first call, it would be too much like a story in a book.  We have a
long search ahead of us, I'm thinking."

"That's right," agreed Walter.  "But, Jack, if this island is
twenty-two miles long, might not the refugees have come ashore
somewhere else than on this particular part of the coast?"

"Yes, I suppose so.  But, if they did, they'd know enough to make
their way to civilization by this time.  It's over a week since the
hurricane."

"I know.  But suppose they couldn't make their way--if they were
hurt, or something like that?"

"That's so," was the hesitating answer.  "Well, we might make a
circuit of the island to-morrow."

"Oh, let's do it--by all means!" exclaimed Cora, catching at any
stray straw of hope.  "We--we might find them--Jack!"

"All right, Sis!" he agreed.

"You look tired," she said to him, as they sat in a little
refreshment room, for Walter had offered to "stand treat" to such as
there was to be had.

"I am a bit tuckered out," confessed Jack, putting his hand to his
head.  "It was quite a strain getting things ready for the start.
But, now we're at sea, I'm going to take a good rest--that is, as
much as I can, under the circumstances."

"You mustn't overdo it," cautioned Cora.  "Remember that we came down
here for your health, but we didn't expect to have such a time of it.
Poor little mother!" she sighed.  "I wonder where she is to-night?"

"I'd like to know," said Jack, softly, and again his hand went to his
head with a puzzled sort of gesture.

"Does it ache?" asked Cora, solicitously.

"No, not exactly," answered Jack slowly, uncertainly.

They finished their little refreshment, being, about the only
stranger-guests at the hotel, and then went out to view what they
could of the town by lamp-light.  Some of the shops displayed wares
that, under other circumstances, would have been attractive to the
girls, but now they did not feel like purchasing.  They were under
too much of a strain.

"Well, no news is good news," quoted Walter.

Alas! how often has that been said as a last resort to buoy up a
sinking hope.  No one else spoke, as they made their way to the dock
where the little ferry boat awaited them.

"What's the matter, Jack?" asked Walter, as he sat beside his chum on
the return trip.

"Matter!  What do you mean?"

"You're so quiet."

"He doesn't feel well," put In Cora.

"Oh, I'm all right!" insisted Jack, with brotherly brusqueness.  "Let
me alone!"

"Well, this place seems nice and cozy," commented Belle, as they
reached the Tartar, and stepped into the cabin, which Joe had
illuminated from the incandescents, operated by a storage battery
when the motor was not whirling the magneto.

"Yes, it is almost like home," said Bess, softly.

Jack and Walter looked carefully to the anchor rope, for though the
harbor was a safe one, there were muddy flats in places, and while
there was no wind at present to drag them, it might spring up in the
night.

"Might as well turn in, I guess," suggested Jack, with a weary yawn.

"Why--yes--old man--if you--feel that way about it!" mocked Walter,
pretending to gape.

"Oh, cut it out!" and Jack's voice was almost snarling.  Cora looked
at him in some surprise, and, catching Walter's eye, made him a
signal not to take any notice.

Walter nodded in acquiescence, and the incident passed.

As an anchor light was hoisted, and as there was no need for any
particular caution, no watch was kept, every one retiring by eleven
o'clock.  Often, when the young people had been on outings together,
Cora and her girl friends had had a "giggling-spell" after retiring
to their rooms.  But now none of them felt like making fun.  It was
rather a solemn little party aboard the Tartar.

The hope and plan of the young travelers to leave early in the
morning, and make a circuit of the island, for a possible sight of
the refugees, was not destined to be carried out.  For somewhere
around two o'clock, when bodily functions are said to be at their
lowest ebb, Walter heard Jack calling to him.

"I say, old man, I wish, you would come here.  Something's the matter
with me," came in a hoarse whisper.

"Eh?  What's that?  Something the matter?" murmured Walter, sleepily.

"Yes, I feel pretty rocky,", was Jack's answer.  "Would you mind
getting me a little of that nerve stuff the doctor put up for me?  It
might quiet me so I could go to sleep."

"Great Scott, man!  Haven't you been asleep yet?"

"No," was Jack's miserable answer.  "I've just been lying here on my
back, staring up at the darkness, and now I'm seeing things."

"Seeing things!" faltered Walter.

"Yes, blue centipedes and red sharks.  It's like the time I keeled
over at college, you know."

"Ugh!" half grunted Walter, with no very cheerful heart, for the
prospect before him, if Jack were to be ill.  Jack was far from well,
when the lights were turned aglow, and Cora came in to see him.  It
seemed to be a return of his old malady, brought on by an excess of
work and worry.

There was little sleep for any of them the rest of the night, for
Cora insisted upon sitting up to look after Jack, and Walter made
himself up a bunk in the dining compartment, being ready on call.

Toward morning Cora's brother sank into an uneasy slumber under the
influence of a sedative, but he awoke at seven o'clock and seemed
feverish.

"We must have a doctor from the island," decided Cora, as she saw her
brother's condition.  "We can't take any chances."

The Danish physician who came out in the boat heartened them up a
little by saying it was merely a relapse, and that Jack would be
much better after a few days' rest.

"Just stay here with him, or anchor a little farther out," was his
suggestion.  "The sea breezes will be the best medicine for him.  I
can't give him any better.  Just let him rest until he gets back his
nerve."

This advice they followed.  But there were anxious nights, and for
three of them Walter and Cora divided the task of sitting up with
Jack.  Joe generously offered to do his share, as did Bess, Belle and
Inez, but Cora would not let them relieve her.

So they lingered off the coast of St. Croix until the fever left
Jack, departing from his weakened body, but making his mind at rest.
Then he began to mend.



CHAPTER XXI

A STRANGE TALE


"Well, Sis, I don't see what's to keep us here any longer.  We might
as well get under way again."

"Do you really feel equal to it, Jack?"

"Surely," and the heir of the Kimball family rose from the deck chair
and stretched himself.  The paleness of his cheeks for the past week
was beginning to give way again to the faint glow of health.

"Sorry to get myself knocked out in that fashion," apologized Jack.

"You couldn't help it, old man," said Walter, sympathetically.  "The
rest has done you good, anyhow."

"Yes, I guess I needed it," confessed Jack.  "All my nerves seemed to
be on the raw edge."  There was no need for him to admit this, since
it had been very evident since reaching St. Croix.  The Danish
physician had given good advice, and now Jack was even better than
when he received the news of the foundering of the Ramona.

The balmy sea breezes, the lack of necessity for any hard work, the
ministrations of Cora, and, occasionally, the other girls, set Jack
in a fair way to recovery.  Inez Ralcanto made many dainty Spanish
dishes for the invalid, from the stock of provisions aboard the
Tartar, and with what she could get from the island.  Nothing gave
her more delight than to know that Jack had gone to the bottom of
each receptacle in which she served her concoctions.

"It is so good to see you smile again, Senor Jack," she said to him,
as she looked at him, on deck.

"And it's good to smile again, Inez," he said to her.

"You'd better look out, Bess," warned Walter.  "First thing you know,
she'll cut you out."

"Silly!" was all the answer Bess vouchsafed.  But there was a
tell-tale blush on her cheeks.

The anchor of the Tartar was hoisted, and once more she sailed away,
this time on the cruise about St. Croix.  That it would result in any
news of the lost ones being obtained no one really believed, but they
felt that no chance, not even the slightest, should be overlooked.

So they motored around the Danish island, stopping aft little bays or
inlets where it seemed likely a raft or boat from a shipwrecked
vessel might most likely put in.  They found no traces, however, and
what few natives they were able to converse with had heard of no
refugees coming ashore.

"Where next?" asked Walter, when they Had completed the circuit of
St. Croix, and come to anchor once more off Christianstad, to lay
aboard some supplies.

"St. Kitts," decided Jack, who was again able to take his part in the
councils.  "At least we'll head for there, and stop at any little
two-by-four islands we pick up on the way.  Isn't that your opinion,
Cora?"

"Yes, Jack.  Anything to find those for whom we are looking.  Oh, I
wonder if we shall ever find them?"

"Of course!" said Jack quickly, but, even as he spoke, he wondered if
he were not deceiving himself.  For when all was said and done, it
seemed such a remote hope--and might be so long deferred, as, not
only to make the heart sick, but to stop it's beating altogether.  It
was such a very slender thread that the beads of hope were strung
on--it was so easy to snap.  And yet they hoped on!

From St. Croix to St. Kitts is about one hundred and twenty miles,
measured on the most accurate charts, and while it could have easily
been made in a day's sail by the Tartar, it was decided not to try
for any time limit, but to cruise back and forth in a rather zig-zag
fashion.

"For that's the only way we'll have of picking up any small islands
that might possibly be uncharted," explained Jack.  "Most of the
coral reefs here are noted on the maps, but there's a bare chance
that we might strike an unknown one, or an island, that would serve
as a haven of refuge for shipwrecked ones."

His friends agreed with him, and Joe said it was probably the best
plan that could be adopted.

So they were once more under way.

It was near St. Kitts that the two sailors from the Ramona had been
picked up, to tell their story of the stressful hurricane and mutiny.
And, other things being equal, as Jack put it, it was near St. Kitts
that some news might be expected to be had of those for whom the
search was being made.

As the capital, Basseterre, was a town of more than ten thousand
population, it might reasonably be expected that some news of the
foundering of the Ramona would be received there.  It was in that
vicinity, as was evident from the rescue of the two sailors, that the
ship had been torn by the wind and waves.

A week was occupied in making the journey to St. Kitts from St.
Croix, a week of cruising back and forth, and of stopping at many
mere dots of islands.  Some of these were seen at once to be not
worth searching, since their entire extent could almost be seen at a
single glance.  They were merely collections of coral rocks,
submerged at high water.  Others were larger, and these were visited
in the small boat which the Tartar carried with her.

It was on some of these trips, over comparatively shallow water, that
the beauties and mysteries of the ocean bottom were made plain to our
friends.

Joe, the engineer, made for them a "water glass," by the simple
process of knocking the bottom out of a pail, and putting in puttied
glass, instead.  This, when put into the water, glass side somewhat
below the surface, enabled one to see with startling clearness the
bottom of the ocean, in depths from seventy-five to one hundred feet.

Most wonderful was the sight.

"Why, it looks like a forest, or a wonderful green-house down there,"
said Cora, after her first view.

"Those are the coral and the sponges," explained Joe.  Our friends
were surprised to see that coral, instead of being stiff and hard, as
it had seemed to them when they handled specimens of it on land, was,
under the water, as graceful and waving as the leaves of palm trees
in a gentle wind.  The ocean currents waved and undulated, it, until
it seemed alive.

Branch coral they saw, like miniature trees, and great "fans," some
nearly ten feet across.  Then there were great rocks of the
coral-living rocks, formed of millions and millions of the bodies of
the polyps, insects who build up such marvelous formations.

Sponges there were, too, though not in great enough abundance to
warrant the sponge-gathering fleets coming to this section.

Through the water glass, our friends could see fish swimming around
under the water, darting here and there between the waving coral and
under the growing sponges.

It was all very wonderful and beautiful, but it is doubtful if any of
the young people really appreciated it as they might have done, had
their hearts been lighter.  Inez did not care to look at the sea
sights, for she said she had seen them too often as a child in the
islands.

In spite of her anxiety concerning her father und his possible fate,
she did not obtrude her desires on her friends.  She seldom spoke of
the hope she had of going to Sea Horse Island, either to help rescue
her father, or to learn some news of him, so that others might set
him free.

"But we'll go there, just the same!" Jack had said.  "And if we can
get him out of prison, we will.  There must be some sort of authority
there to appeal to."

"You are very lucky, Senor Jack," whispered Inez, with a grateful
look.

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Jack, who did not like praise.

They reached St. Kitts, or St. Christopher, as it is often called,
from the immortal Columbus who found it in 1493, when he did so much
to bring unknown lands to notice.

"Now we'll see what sort of luck we'll have," spoke Walter.

They anchored off Basseterre, and, going ashore, had little
difficulty in confirming the story of the two shipwrecked sailors
being picked up.  That much as current news, since another vessel
than the Boldero had been near, when the latter's captain stopped for
the two unfortunates.

That was all that really was learned, save that some fishing boats,
later, had seen pieces of wreckage.

Diligent inquiry in Old Road, and Sandy Point, the two other
principal towns, failed to gain further information, and our friends
were considering continuing their cruise, when, most unexpectedly,
they heard a curious tale that set them, eventually, on the right
course.

They were coming down to the dock, one evening to take a boat out to
their own craft, when an aged colored man, who spoke fairly good
English, accosted them.  At first Jack took him for a beggar, and
gruffly ordered him away, but the fellow insisted.

"I've got news for you, boss," he said, with a curious British
cockney accent.  "You lookin' for shipwrecked parties, ain't you?"

"Yes," said Jack, a bit shortly.  But that was common news.

"Well, there's an island about fifty miles from here," the black went
on, "and there's somethin' bloomin' stringe about it;" for so he
pronounced "strange."

"Strange--what do you mean?" asked Walter.

"Just what I says, boss, stringe.  If you was to say it'd be worth
arf a crown now--"

"Oh, I haven't time to bother with curiosities!" exclaimed Jack,
impatiently.

"Let us hear his story, Jack," insisted Cora.  "What is it?" she
asked, giving him a coin, though not as much as he had asked for.

"'Thank ye kindly, Miss.  It's this way," said, the colored
Englishman.  "I works on a fishin' boat, and a few days ago, comin'
back, we sighted this island.  We needed water, and we went ashore to
get it, but--well, we comes away without it."

"Why was that?" asked Walter, curiously.

"Because, boss, there's a strange creature on that island, that's
what there is," said the negro.  "He scared all of us stiff.  He was
all in rage and titters, and when he found we was sheering off,
without coming ashore, he went wild, and flung his cap at us.  It
floated off shore, and I picked it up, bein' on that side of the
boat."

"But how does this concern us?" asked Jack, rousing a little.

"I could show you that cap, boss," the Negro went on.  "I've got it
here.  It's dark, but maybe you can make out the letters on it.  I
can't read very good."

Jack held the cap up in the gleam of a light on the water-front.  His
startled eyes saw a cap, such as sailors wear, while in faded gilt
letters on the band was the name: "RAMONA."



CHAPTER XXII

THE LONELY ISLAND


Walter, looking over Jack's shoulder, rubbed his eyes as though to
clear them from a mist, and then, as he saw the faded gilt letters,
he closed both eyes, opening them again quickly to make sure of a
perfect vision.

"Jack!" he murmured.  "Do I really see it?"

"I--I guess so," was the faltering answer.

"Cora, look here!"

The girls, who had drawn a little aside at the close approach of the
negro, came up by twos, Cora and Belle walking together.

"What is it?" asked Jack's sister, thinking perhaps the man had made
a second charity appeal to her brother, and that he wanted her advice
on it.

"Look," said Jack simply, and he extended the cap.

As Walter had done, Cora was at first unable to believe the word she
saw there.

"The--Ramona," she faltered.

"The steamer mother and father sailed on?" asked Belle, her face pale
in the lamp-light.

"The same name, at any rate," remarked Walter, in a low voice.  "And
there would hardly be two alike in these waters."

"But what does it mean?  Where did he get the cap?" asked Cora, her
voice rising with her excitement.  "Tell me, Jack!"

"He says it was flung to him by some sort of an insane sailor, I take
it, on a lonely island."

"That's it, Missie," broke in the man, his tone sufficiently
respectful.  "Me and my mates, as I was tellin' the boss here," and
he nodded at Jack, "started to fill our water casks, but we didn't
stay to do it arter we saw this chap.  Fair a wild man, I'd call 'im,
Missie.  That's what I would.  Fair a wild man!"

"And he flung you this cap?"

"That's what he done, Missie.  Chucked it right into the tea, Missie,
jest like it didn't cost nothin', and it was a good cap once."

It was not now, whatever it had been, for it bore evidence of long
sea immersion, and the band had been broken and cracked by the manner
in which the negro fisherman had crammed it into his pocket.

"Jack!" exclaimed Cora, in a strangely agitated voice.  "We must hear
more of this story.  It may be--it may be a clue!"

"That's what I'm thinking."

A little knot of idlers had gathered at seeing the negro talking to
the group of white 'young people, and Walter and Jack, exchanging
glances mutually decided that the rest of the affair might better be
concluded in seclusion.  Jack gave the negro a hasty but
comprehensive glance.

"Shall we take him aboard, Cora?" he asked his sister.  Jack was very
willing to defer to Cora's opinion, for he had, more than once, found
her judgment sound.  And, in a great measure, this was her affair,
since she had been invited first by the Robinsons, and Jack himself
was only a sort accidental after-thought.

"I think it would be better to take him to the Tartar," Cora said.
"We can question him there, and, if necessary, we can--"

She hesitated, and Jack asked:

"Well, what?  Go on!"

"No, I want to think about it first," she made reply.  "Wait until we
girls hear his story."

"Will you come to our motor boat?" asked Jack of the sailor, who said
he was known by the name of Slim Jim, which indeed, as far as his
physical characteristics were concerned, fitted him perfectly.  He
was indeed slim, though of rather a pleasant cast of features.

"Sure, boss, I'll go," he answered.  "Of course I might git a job by
hangin' around here, but--"

"Oh, we'll pay you for your time--you won't lose anything."  Jack
interrupted.  Indeed the man had, from the first, it seemed, accosted
him with the idea of getting a little "spare-change" for, like most
of the negro population of the Antilles, he was very poor.

"But what's it all about?" asked Bess, who had not heard all the
talk, and who, in consequence, had not followed the significance of
the encounter.

"Zey have found a man, who says a sailor on some island near here,
wore a cap with ze name of your mozer's steamer," put in Inez, who,
with the quickness of her race, had gathered those important facts.

"Oh!" gasped Bess.

"Don't build too much on it," interposed Jack.

"It may be only a sailor's yarn."

"It's all true, what I'm tellin' you, boss!" exclaimed the negro.

"Oh, I don't doubt your word," said Jack, quickly.  "But let's get
aboard the boat before we talk any further."

Aboard the Tartar, seated in her cozy cabin, the story of Slim Jim
seemed to take on added significance.  He told it, too, with a due
regard for its importance--especially to him--in the matter of what
money it might bring to him.

In brief, his "yarn" was about as I have indicated, in the brief talk
with Jack.  Jim and his mates had been on a protracted fishing trip,
and had run short of water.  One of the number knew of a lonely and
uninhabited island near where they were then cruising--an island that
contained a spring of good water.

 They were headed for the place, but when they were about to land,
they had been alarmed by the appearance of what at first was supposed
to be some wild beast.

"He crawled on all fours, Missie," said Slim Jim, addressing Cora
with such earnestness that she could not repress a shiver.  "He
crawled on all fours like some bloomin' beastie, begging your pardon,
Missie.  We was all fair scared, an' sheered orf."

"Then how did you get the cap?" asked Walter.

"He chucked the blessed cap to us, sir!" Jim appeared to have a
different appellation for each member of the party.  "Chucked it
right into the water, sir.  I picked it up."

"What else did he do?" asked Cora.

"He behaved somethin' queer, Missie.  Runnin' up and down, not on
four legs--meanin' his hands, Missie--and now on two.  Fair nutty I'd
call him."

"Poor fellow," murmured Bess.

"And is that all that happened?" demanded Walter.

"Well, about all, sir.  I picked up the cap, and we rowed away.  We
thought we'd better go dry, sir, in the manner of speakin', instead
of facin' that chap.  He was fair crazy, sir."

"Did he look like a sailor?" Jack wanted to know.

"Well, no, boss, you couldn't rightly say so, boss.  He took on
somethin' terrible when we sheered off an' left 'im."

"And that's all?" inquired Belle, in a low voice.

"Yes--er--little lady," answered Slim Jim, finding a new title for
fair Belle.  "That's all, little lady, 'cept that I kept th' cap, not
thinkin' much about it, until I heard you gentlemen inquirin' for
news of the Ramona.  I heard some one spell out that there name in
these letters for me," and he indicated the name on the cap.  "Then I
spoke to you, boss."

"Yes, and I'm glad you did," said Jack.

"'Why?" began Cora.  "Do you think--"

"I think it's barely possible that one of the sailors from the Ramona
is marooned on that lonely island," interrupted Jack.  "He may be the
only one, or there may be more.  We'll have to find out.  Can you
take us to this island?" he asked Slim Jim.

"The lonely island?"

"Yes."

"I rackon so, boss, if you was to hire me, in the manner of speakin'"

"Of course."

"Then I'll go."

"Off for the lonely, isle," murmured Coral softly.  "I wonder what
we'll find there?"



CHAPTER XXIII

THE LONELY SAILOR


Once more the Tartar was off on her strange cruise.  This time she
carried an added passenger, or, rather a second member of the crew,
for Slim Jim bunked with Joe, and was made assistant engineer, since
the negro proved to know something of gasoline motors.

After hearing the story told by the colored fisherman, and confirming
it by inquiries in St. Kitts, Jack, Cora and the others decided that
there was but one thing to do.  That was to head at once for the
lonely island where the sailor, probably maddened by his loneliness
and hardship, was marooned.

As to the location of the island, Slim Jim could give a fair idea as
to where it rose sullenly from the sea, a mass of coral rock, with a
little vegetation.  The truth of this was also established by
cautious inquiries before the Tartar tripped her anchor.

Lonely Island, as they called it, was about a day's run from St.
Kitts in fair weather, and now, though the weather had taken a little
turn, as though indicating another storm, it was fair enough to
warrant the try.

More gasoline was put aboard, with additional stores, for Slim Jim,
in spite of his attenuation, was a hearty eater.  Then they were on
their way.

Aside from a slight excitement caused when Walter hooked a big fish,
and was nearly taken overboard by it--being in fact pulled back just
in time by Bess, little of moment occurred on the trip to Lonely
Island.

Toward evening, after a day's hard pushing of the Tartar, Slim Jim,
who had taken his position in the bows, called out:

"There she lies, boss!"

"Lonely Island?" asked Jack.

"That's her."

"Since you've been there, where had we better anchor?" asked Joe,
with a due regard for the craft he was piloting.

"Around on the other side is a good bay, with deep enough water and
good holding ground," said the negro.  "If it comes on to blow, an'
it looks as if it might, we'll ride easy there."

Accordingly, they passed by the place where the negro fishermen had
been frightened away with their empty water casks, and made for the
other side of the island.  Recalling the story of the queer and
probably crazed man, Jack and the others, including Slim Jim, gazed
eagerly for a sight of him.  But the island seemed deserted and
lonely.

"What if he shouldn't be there?" whispered Belle to Cora.

"Don't suggest it, my dear.  It's the best chance we've yet had of
finding them, and it mustn't fail--it simply mustn't!"

It was very quiet in the little bay where they dropped anchor, though
a flock of birds, with harsh cries, flew from the palm trees at the
sound of the "mud hook" splashing into the water.

"Now for the sailor!" exclaimed Walter.

"Hush!  He'll hear you," cautioned Belle.

"Well, we want him to, don't we?" and he smiled at her.

Eagerly they gazed toward shore, but there was no sign of a human
being around there.  Lonely indeed was the little island in the midst
of that blue sea, over which the setting sun cast golden shadows.

"Are you going ashore?" asked Walter of Jack, in a low voice.
Somehow it seemed necessary to speak in hushed tones in that silent
place.

"Indeed we're not--until morning!" put in Cora.  "And don't you boys
dare go and leave us alone," and she grasped her brother's arm in a
determined clasp.

"I guess it will be better to wait until morning," agreed Jack.

Supper--or dinner, as you prefer--was served aboard, and then the
searchers sat about and talked of the strange turn of events, while
Jim and Joe, in the motor compartment, tinkered with the engine,
which had not been running as smoothly, of late, as could be desired.

"I hope it doesn't go back on us," remarked Jack, half dubiously.

"Don't suggest such a thing," exclaimed his sister.

They agreed to go ashore in the morning, and search for the marooned
sailor supposed to be on Lonely Island.  The night passed quietly,
though there were strange noises from the direction of the island.
Jack, and the others aboard the Tartar, which swung at anchor in the
little coral encircled lagoon, said they were the noises of birds in
the palm trees.  But Slim Jim shook his head.

"That crazy sailor makes queer noises," he said.

"If he's there," suggested Walter.

In the morning they found him, after a short search.  It was not at
all difficult, for they came upon the unfortunate man in a clump of
trees, under which he was huddled, eating something in almost animal
fashion.

With Jack and Walter in the lead, the girls behind them, and Joe and
Jim in the rear, they had set off on their man-hunt.  They had not
gone far from the shore before an agitation in the bushes just ahead
of them attracted the attention of the two boys.

"Did you see something?" asked Walter.

"Something--yes," admitted Jack.  "A bird, I think."

"But I didn't hear the flutter of wings."

"I don't know as to that.  Anyhow, there are birds enough here.  Come
on."

They glanced back to where Bess had stopped to look at a beautiful
orchid, in shape itself not unlike some bird of most brilliant
plumage.

"Oh, if father could only see that!" she sighed.  "It is too
beautiful to pick."

Cora and her chums closed up to the boys, and then, as they made
their way down a little grassy hill, into a sort of glade, Cora
uttered a sudden and startled cry.

"Look!" she gasped, clutching Jack's arm in such a grip that he
winced.

"Where?" he asked.

"Right under those trees."

And there they saw him--the lonely sailor, crouched down, eating
something as--yes, as a dog might eat it!  So far had he fallen back
to the original scale--if ever there was one.

Some one of the party trod on a stick, that broke with a loud
snap-almost like a rifle shot in that stillness.  The lone sailor
looked up, startled, as a dog might, when disturbed at gnawing a
bone.  Then he remained as still and quiet as some stone.

"That's him," said the negro sailor, and though he meant to speak
softly, his voice seemed fairly to boom out.  At the sound of it, the
hermit was galvanized into life.  He dropped what he had been eating,
and slowly rose from his crouching attitude.  Then he turned slowly,
so as to face the group of intruders on his island fastness.  He
seemed to fear they would vanish, if he moved too suddenly--vanish as
the figment of some dream.

"Poor fellow," murmured Cora.  "Speak to him, Jack.  Say something."

"I'm afraid of' frightening him more.  Wait until he wakes up a bit."

"He does act like some one just disturbed from a sleep," spoke
Walter.  "Maybe you girls--"

"Oh, we're not afraid," put in Bess, quickly.

Not with all this protection, and she looked from the boys to the two
sturdy men.

Now the lonely sailor was moving more quickly.  He straightened up,
more like the likeness and image of man as he was created, and took a
step forward.  Finding, evidently, that this did not dissipate the
images, he passed his hand in front of his face, as though brushing
away unseen cobwebs.  Then he fairly ran toward the group.

"Look out!" warned Joe.  But there was nothing to fear.  When yet a
little distance off, the man fell on his knees, and, holding up his
hands, in an attitude of supplication cried out in a hoarse voice:

"Don't say you're not real.  Oh, dear God, don't let 'em say that!
Don't let 'em be visions of a dream!  Don't, dear God!"

"Oh, speak to him, Jack!" begged Cora.  "He thinks it's a vision.
Tell him we are real--that we've come to take him away--to find out
about our own dear ones--speak to him!"

There was no need.  Her own clear voice had carried to the lonely
sailor, and had told him what he wanted to know.

"They speak!  I hear them!  They are real.  And now, dear God, don't
let them go away!" he pleaded.

"We're not going away!" Jack called.  "At least not until we help
you--if we can.  Come over here and tell us all about it.  Are you
from the Ramona?"

"The Ramona, yes.  But if--if you're from her--if you've come to take
me back to her, I'm not going!  I'd rather die first.  I won't go
back!  I won't be a pirate!  You sha'n't make me!  I'll stay here and
die first."



CHAPTER XXIV

THE REVENUE CUTTER


The story told by Ben Wrensch--for such proved to be the name of the
lonely sailor-cannot be set down as he told it.  In the first place,
there was little of chronological order about it, and in the second
place he was interrupted so often by Cora, or one of the others,
asking questions, or he interrupted himself so frequently, that it
would be but a disjointed narrative at best.  So, I have seen fit to
abridge it, and tell it in my own.

As a matter of fact, the questions Cora, her girl chums, or the boys
asked, only tended to throw more light on the strange affair, whereas
the interruptions of Ben himself were more dramatic.  He was so
afraid that it was all a dream that, he would awaken from it only to
find himself alone again.

"But you are real, aren't you, now?" he would ask, pathetically.

"Of course," said Cora, with a gentle smile.

"And you won't go away and leave me, as the others did?" he begged,
but he did not couple Slim Jim with one of those.  In fact, he did
not pay much attention to the negro, for which Jim, a rather
superstitious chap, was very grateful.

"Certainly we won't leave you here," Jack said.  "We'll take you
wherever you want to go, Ben."

"That's good.  Well, as I was saying--" and then he would resume his
interrupted narrative.

So, instead of telling his "yarn" in that fashion, I have sought to
save your time and interest by condensing it.

Up to the time of the hurricane, which caught the Ramona in rather a
bad stretch of water, there was nothing that need be set down.  The
vessel bearing the mother of Jack and Cora, and the parents of the
Robinson twins, had gone on her way, until the sudden bursting of the
storm, with unusual tropical fury, had thrown the seas against and
over the craft with smashing fury.  Boats and parts of the railing
and netting, had been carried away, and one or two sailors washed
overboard.

Then had come the mutiny, if such it could be called--an uprising of
some of the sailors, driven to almost insane anger because of the
refusal of the captain to put into a port, the harbor of which could
not be made in such a sea as was running, nor in the teeth of such
furious wind.  The only thing to do was to scud before the gale, with
the engines and crew doing what they could.

There had been an incipient panic, and a rush for the boats quelled
hardly in time, for some had been lowered, and swamped and others had
gotten away.

There was an exchange of shots between the captain and some of the
mutineers, and, as our friends knew, one sailor, at least, was
wounded, though whether by the captain or by the mutineers was
uncertain.

Ben Wrensch, who appeared of better character than the usual run of
West Indian sailors, had his share in the mutiny--that is, he refused
to take sides with the small part of the crew who berated the captain
for something he could not do.  He had sided with the small part of
the crew who remained loyal.

"And what did they do to you?" asked Jack.  For the man had come to a
pause, after describing how many shouted that the ship was
foundering.

"The rascals drove me and some of the other to a boat, and lowered us
away," was the answer.  "They said they didn't want us aboard.  I
guess they was afraid we'd give evidence against them, if we ever got
the chance, and so I would."

"And did you land here?" asked Cora, indicating the lonely isle.

"Not at first, Miss.  We tossed about in the boat and the sea got
higher and the wind stronger.  And how it did rain!  It seemed to
beat right through your skin.  The rain helped to keep the seas down,
but not much.  It was fearful!"

He then went on to tell how, after laboring hard in the darkness of
the night, the boat he was in (five other sailors being his
companions) was swamped by a huge wave.  He was tossed into the sea,
and must have been rendered unconscious by a blow on the head, for he
remembered nothing more until he found himself being washed back and
forth on the beach by the waves, and at last had understanding and
strength enough to crawl up beyond the reach of the water.

So he had come to Lonely Island.  And there he had existed ever
since.

Some few things--including the cap that had been of such value to our
friends--had been washed ashore from the boat, or otherwise Ben might
have starved at first, for he was too weak to hunt for food.
Gradually he regained the power to help himself.

He found mussels clinging to the rocks, he gathered some turtles
eggs, and was lucky enough to kill a bird with a stone.  On such food
he lived.  For shelter he made himself a hut of bark and vines, and
so the days passed in loneliness.

It had not taken him long to find that he was the only inhabitant of
Lonely Island.  He alone, of the company in the boat, had come ashore
to be saved.

Of the time he spent on the island you would not be interested to
hear.  One day was like another, save as he had better or worse luck
in providing food.  His great anxiety was to be taken off and to this
end he made a signal, but it was a small one, and it is doubtful it
would ever have been seen.

Gradually his hardships, his exposure and the loneliness preyed on
him until he was well-nigh insane.  He became almost like an animal
in his fight against nature.

He was on the verge of madness when he saw the boat load of fishermen
approaching for water, and it was his queer actions that drove them
off.   In his despair he threw his cap at them, the most fortunate
thing he could have done.

"And now you come to me!" he said, simply.

"Yes, we're here," admitted Jack.  "But can you give us any more news
of the Ramona?  That is what we want to know.  Which way was she
headed when you were forced to leave her?  Have you any idea where
she is now?"

"She was headed southeast," was the answer.

"And how long would you say she could keep afloat?" Walter wanted to
know.

"She ought to be afloat now!" was the startling reply.

"Now!" cried Jack.  "What do you mean?"

"Why, she was in no danger of sinking," Ben went on, and Cora and the
girls felt new hope springing up in their hearts.

"Are you sure of this?" demanded Jack.

"Very sure; yes.  I was below just before I was forced into the small
boat, and there wasn't a plate sprung.  The engines were in good
order and if the mutineers hadn't raised a hue and cry, everything
would have been all right.  But they wanted their way, for their own
ends, I fancy."

"Meaning what?" asked Jack.

"That they were glad of any excuse to seize the ship.  I overheard
some of their plans.  They would have done it, storm or no storm.
There was a plot to take the Ramona, put off all who would be in the
way, take her to some port, change her name and engage her in what
amounted to piracy."

"The plotters were going to do this?" cried Walter, aghast.

"Yes, and the storm only egged them on.  It was their opportunity."

"Then the Ramona may be afloat now?" demanded Cora.

"She very likely is, Miss, I should say.  A little damaged perhaps,
but not more than could be."

"And what of the passengers?" asked Bess.

"Well, they're either aboard her, as prisoners, or have thrown their
lot in with the mutineers, or--"

He did not go on.

"Well?" asked Jack, grimly.

"Or they were put adrift, as I was," went on Ben.

"But you did not see that happen?" asked Cora, for the story was
nearing its end now.

"No, Miss, I didn't see that.  When I was put overboard, all the
passengers--and there weren't many of them--were still aboard."

"Did you see any of them?" asked Bess.

"Oh, yes, Miss.  All of  'em, I fancy."

"My father and mother--"

Ben described, as well as he could, the various characteristics and
appearances of the Ramona's passengers, and Mrs. Kimball and Mr. and
Mrs. Robinson were easily recognized.

"Then we must still keep on searching for them," decided Jack, at the
conclusion of the narrative.  "We'll just have to keep on!"

"It looks so," admitted Cora.

"Oh, we mustn't think of giving up!" cried Bess.  "I know my father.
He just wouldn't give in to those horrid mutineers, and he wouldn't
throw in his fortunes with them, either.  I can't explain it, but,
somehow I feel more hopeful than at any time yet, that they are all
right--Papa and Mamma, and your mother, too, Cora."

"I am glad you think so, dear.  I haven't given up either.  But let's
get away from here, Jack."

"That's what I say!" murmured Belle, with a little nervous shiver.
"This place gives me such a creepy feeling."

"You might well say so, Miss," put in Ben.  "That is, if you had to
stay here all along, as I did, with nothing but them parrot birds
screeching at you all day long.  It was awful!"

There was no use in staying longer on Lonely Island, and Ben Wrensch
was only too glad to be taken from it.  At first the motor girls
talked of taking him with them, on the remainder of the cruise, but,
as Jack pointed out, there was no need of this.

He could give no further information as to the location of the
Ramona, providing the steamer still was afloat.  And he would only be
an added, and comparatively useless, passenger.  He was not exactly
the sort of personage one would desire in the rather cramped quarters
of the Tartar, though he was kind and obliging.  He would be better
off ashore, for the time being, where he could get medical treatment.

So the big motor boat swept out of the blue lagoon, and headed for
St. Kitts, for it was planned to leave Ben, and once more take up the
search.

They had not been under way more than an hour, however, before Jack,
who was steering, uttered a cry.

 "There's a boat cording toward us!" he said.  "She seems to be a
small launch."

"Yes, and she's signaling to us!" added Walter.  "She wants to speak
with us!"

Joe came up from the motor room, and looked long and earnestly at the
approaching craft.

"That's an English revenue cutter," he said, "and she's in a hurry,
too."

"I wonder what she can want with us," mused Jack, as he ordered a
signal to be run up on the small mast, indicating that they would
speak to the approaching craft.



CHAPTER XXV

NEWS OF THE "RAMONA"


Over the slowly heaving swell of the blue waters the swift revenue
cutter came on.  Those aboard the Tartar watched her with eager eyes.
Did she have some news for them?  This was the question in the mind
of the motor girls.

"Oh, perhaps they have mother aboard!" breathed Cora, her hopes
running thus high.

"And they might have our mother and father!" added Bess, taking bold
heart as she heard Cora speak.

Inez said nothing.  It was too much for her to dare to think that her
father might be released from his political prison.  She could only
wait and hope.

"Some speed to her," observed Jack, admiringly, as he watched the
white foam piled up in front of the bow of the oncoming craft.

"But she's not very big," spoke Walter.

"She's built for speed," remarked Engineer Joe.  "She doesn't usually
come out this far to sea; just hangs around the harbors, and tries to
catch small smugglers.  She couldn't stand much of a blow, and it's
my opinion we're going to get one."

"Oh, I hope not soon!" exclaimed Cora, with a little nervous glance
up at the sky.

"Well, within a day or so," went on Joe.  "It's making up for a storm
all right, and I guess that cutter is trying to get her job
done--whatever it is--and scoot back into harbor."

"But why should she want to speak to us?" asked Bess.  "Of course
it's interesting, and all that--almost like a story, in fact--but
what does she want?"

"Tell you better when she gets here," said Walter with a laugh.
"Perhaps there are some ladies aboard, and they want to learn the
latest styles from the United States-seeing how recently you girls
came from there."

"Silly!" murmured Belle, but it was noticed that she glanced at her
brown linen dress, relieved with little touches of flame-colored
velvet here and there--in which costume she made a most attractive
picture.  At least, Walter thought so.

"Perhaps zey are in search of him," suggested Inez, pointing to
Sailor Ben, who was lying on a coil of rope in the bow.

"That's right!" exclaimed Jack, with a look of admiration at the
Spanish girl.  "They may have heard a story of his being on the
island, and come out to rescue him.  They could tell we came from
that direction."

"It's possible," admitted Walter.

Whoever was in charge of the revenue cutter, seeing that their
signals to speak the Tartar had been observed and answered, cut down
the speed somewhat, so that the government vessel came on more
slowly.  In a short time, however, she was near enough for a hail,
through a megaphone, to be heard.

"What boat is that?" was the demand.

"The Tartar, from San Juan," was Jack's reply.

"Where bound?"

"It's too long a story to yell this way," was Jack's answer.  "Shall
we come aboard?"

"No, I'll send a boat," came back.  Presently a small boat,
containing three men, was lowered, for the sea was very smooth, and
in a little while a trim-looking lieutenant was at the accommodation
ladder of the Tartar.

"Why, it's just like a play!" murmured Bess, as she saw the sword at
the officer's side.  "I wonder if he's going to put us all under
arrest?"

"Would you mind?" asked Cora.

"I don't know.  He has nice eyes, hasn't he?"

"Hopeless!" sighed. Cora, with a little smile at her chum.

A quick glance on the part of the lieutenant seemed to give him an
idea of the nature of the cruise of the Tartar.

"Oh! a pleasure party!" he exclaimed.  "I am sorry we had to stop
you, but--"

"That's all right," said Cora, for she thought it would be less
embarrassing if one of the feminine members gave some assurance.  "It
doesn't happen to be a pleasure trip."

"No?  You astonish me, really!  I should say--"

His eyes caught sight of the ragged and un-kempt figure of the
marooned sailor.

"Has there been a wreck?  Did you save some one?" the lieutenant
asked, quickly.  His practiced eye told him at once that some tragedy
had occurred.

"Something like that--yes," Cora assented.  "But the rescue is not
over yet.  My brother will tell you all about it," and she nodded to
Jack.  The lieutenant, with a courteous lifting of his cap, turned to
face Walter's chum.

"We rescued him from a little island back there," Jack said.  "We
thought you might be on the same errand."

"No," the officer said, "though we would have gone if we had heard of
it.  But we are after bigger game.  Are you going back to St. Kitts?"

"Yes, and then on again. We're trying to find the Ramona, or some--"

"The Ramona!" cried the lieutenant, and there was wonder in his
tones.  "Do you, by any possible chance, mean the Ramona of the Royal
Line?"

"That's the one," said Jack, something of the other's excitement
'communicating itself to him.  "Why, do you know anything about her?"

"I only wish we knew more of her!" snapped the lieutenant, with a
grim tightening of his lips, while the girls looked on in wonder at
the strange scene.  "We're after her, too," the officer continued.
"She's in the hands of a mutinous crew, and she's been trying to do
some smuggling.  We've orders to take her if we can, but first we
have to find her, and that's the errand we're on now.  We stopped you
to ask if you had had a sight of her.  But why are you interested in
finding her, if I may ask?"

"We're looking for my mother, who sailed on her," said Cora, quickly,
"and for Mr. and Mrs. Perry Robinson, the parents of these girls,"
and she nodded toward the twins.

"Is it possible!" exclaimed the lieutenant.  "This is indeed a
coincidence."

"Have you sighted the Ramona?" asked Cora.

"No, Miss, and I wish we would--soon," spoke the lieutenant.  "We're
going to have a storm, if I'm any judge, and our cutter isn't any too
sea-worthy.  But it's all in the line of business," and he shrugged
his shapely shoulders as though preparing for the worst.  He would
not shirk his duty.

"Well, I'm sorry we can't give you any information," Cora said.  "We,
too, are very anxious to find the steamer, for we are not even sure
that our parents are aboard.  There was a terrible storm, you know,
and she may have foundered."

"No, she did not.  We have good evidence of that," was the officer's
answer.  "She had a hard time in the hurricane, and suffered some
damage, Miss, but she's sound and able to navigate.  We heard that
some of the crew, who would not join with the mutineers, were
marooned--I am glad to get confirmation of that," and he nodded at
Ben, whose story had been briefly told.

"But what of the passengers?" asked Bess, anxiously.  "Oh, did you
hear anything of father and mother?"

"Not personally, I am sorry to say," was the answer of the lieutenant
as he touched his cap, and smiled at the eager girl.

"But did you hear anything?" asked, Cora, for somehow she fancied she
detected a tone as though the officer would have been glad to answer
no further.

"Well, Yes, Miss, I did," he was the somewhat reluctant reply.  "The
story goes that all the passengers are still aboard."

"Still on board!" echoed Jack.  "Why, I thought they were also
marooned."

"Evidently not," said the lieutenant.  "Either the storm must have
made them change their plans, or the mutineers were afraid of
evidence being given against them by the passengers, for they kept
them aboard, according to the latest reports we have had.

"After living through the hurricane, the Ramona was headed for a
quiet harbor, where the smugglers have their headquarters, and there
repairs were made.  Since then the ship, under another name, has been
engaged in running contraband goods.  We were ordered to get after
her, but, so far, we have had our trouble for our pains.  We hoped
you might have sighted her."

"We're going to keep on trying," said Cora.  "We are going back to
St. Kitts, to land him," and she nodded at the sailor they had
rescued.

"Well, then we may see you again," the lieutenant said, with a bow,
that took in the motor girls impartially.  He shot a quick glance at
Inez, but Cora did not think it wise to speak of the Spanish girl,
nor mention her father.

After some further talk, in the course of which the lieutenant said
the mutineers and smugglers would be harshly dealt with when caught,
he returned to the cutter, which was soon under way again.  She
sheered off on a new tack, while the Tartar resumed her journey to
St. Kitts.

"Wasn't that remarkable?" asked Bess.

"Very strange," agreed Cora.

"And it gave us news," spoke Belle.  "We know now that your mother,
Cora, and that our folks are all right."

"All right?" cried Jack, questioningly.

"Well, I mean they are safe on board, and not suffering on some
little island," went on Belle.

"They might better off on some island," murmured Jack, but only
Walter heard him, and he cautioned his chum quickly.

"Don't let the girls hear you say that," he whispered.  "I agree with
you that they might be better off on an island, than on the steamer,
with the mutineers and smugglers. But if the girls hear that, they'll
have all kinds of fits.  Keep still about it."

"Oh, I intend to.  But this complicates matters doesn't it?  We'll
have to find a constantly moving steamer, instead of a stationary
island."

"It's about six of one and a half dozen of the other," spoke Walter.
"But we have help in our search now," and he nodded toward the
cutter, only the smoke of which could now be seen.

St. Kitts was reached without further incident, and Sailor Ben was
taken ashore, Cora insisting on leaving him a sufficient sum of money
to insure his care until he could find another berth.  Then the
pursuit of the Ramona was again taken up.

For two days the Tartar cruised about on her strange quest, and when
the third evening came, with the sun setting behind a bank of
slate-colored clouds, Cora said to Jack:

"It looks like a storm."

"You're right, Sis," he agreed.  And, I even as he spoke, there came
a strange moaning of the wind, which sprang up suddenly, whipping
feathers of foam from the crests of the oily waves.

At the same moment, Joe, who had come up from the motor room for a
breath of fresh air, cried out:

"Sail ho!"



CHAPTER XXVI

THE PURSUIT


"What is it?" cried Cora, as she came up from the little dining
cabin, where she and the other girls had been "doing" the dishes.

"A small steamer, Miss," answered the engineer of the Tartar. "I
can't just make out what she is--sort of misty and hazy just now."

"She seems to be headed this way, too," spoke Bess, who had joined Cora
on the little deck.  "Oh, but doesn't the weather look queer?"

She turned a questioning and rather frightened gaze at her chum.

"I think we're in for a storm," Cora spoke.

"But we're too good sailors to mind that--aren't we?"

"I hope so," faltered Bess.

It was not so much a question of sea-sickness with the motor girls,
as it was a fear of damage in a comparatively small craft.  They had
been on the water enough, and in stressful times, too, so that they
suffered no qualms.  But a storm at sea is ever a frightful
sensation, to even the seasoned traveler.

"Why, that boat is headed right for us," observed Belle, who had also
come out of the dining cabin.  As for Inez, she frankly did not like
the water except when the sky was blue and the sun shining, though
she was far from being cowardly about it.  So she remained below.

"Jack!  Jack!" called Cora, for Walter and her brother had gone down
to their stateroom to don "sea togs," as Jack called them--meaning
thereby clothes that salt water would not damage.

"What is it, Sis?" he asked.

"There's another boat headed for us, perhaps she wants help?" Cora
suggested.

"We'll give them all we can," Jack called, as he came hurrying up.
Then, as he steadied himself at the rail, and looked off through the
mist toward the on-coming boat, he uttered an exclamation.

"Why--that's the revenue cutter again!" he cried.  "I'm sure of it!
How about that, Joe?"

The engineer, who had left his machinery in charge of Slim Jim, for
the time, cleared his eyes of the salty spray.

"I guess you're right," he agreed.  "Couldn't make her out at first,
but that's who she is.  Guess she wants to ask us if we have any more
information.  Shall I heave to?"

"Better, I think," advised Cora, following Jack's questioning glance.
For, be it known, Jack deferred more than usual to his sister on this
cruise, since he had been under her direction, rather than she under
his.

That it was the desire of the on-coming craft to have the Tartar slow
up was evident a moment later.  For, as the powerful motors revolved
with less speed, a hail came over the heaving blue waters, that now
had turned to a sickly green under the strange hue of the setting
sun.

"On board the Tartar!" came the cry.  Evidently the boat of our
voyagers had not been forgotten.

"Ahoy!" shouted Jack, using a megaphone Cora handed him.

"Stand by!" was the next command.  "We want to send"--there came an
undistinguishable word--"aboard."

"They're going to send some one aboard!" cried Bess.  "Oh, if it
should be our folks--mother and father-your mother, Cora dear!"

A flush of excitement gathered on Cora's cheeks.  Belle, too, felt
that something was impending.  Jack, and Walter exchanged glances.

The sea was running higher now, under the influence of an
ever-increasing wind, and it was no easy matter to lower a small boat
from the cutter--a small boat containing three men.

"It's just as it was before--when they came to us for news,"
exclaimed Bess.  "I wonder if they bring us news, now."

"They certainly aren't bringing any of our people," said Cora with a
sigh, for, though she had discounted the hope that Bess had
expressed, yet she could not altogether free herself from it.  It was
evident that none save sailors were coming toward the Tartar.

And, when the small boat drew nearer, those aboard the gasoline craft
saw that they were to receive the same Lieutenant Walling who had
before paid them a visit.

"What is it, please?" asked Cora, leaning over the rail.  She was
unable to withhold her question longer.

"We have news for you!" exclaimed the lieutenant, the pause coming as
he made an ineffectual grasp for the rail as his boat rose on the
swell.

"News!" gasped Cora.  Her heart was beating wildly now.

"Oh, we haven't rescued your people," Lieutenant Walling hastened to
assure her, as this time he managed to grasp the rail of the motor
boat, swinging himself over on the deck.  The swells were so high
that no accommodation ladder was needed.  "That's all--you may go
back, and say to Captain Decker that I will look after matters," he
said to the sailors in the small boat.

One of them fended off from the side of the Tartar, while the other
pulled on the oars.  Soon they were on their way back, crossing the
stretch of now sullenly heaving water between the two craft.

"I find myself, under the direction of my commanding officer, Captain
Decker, obliged to ask for help," said Lieutenant Walling, with a
smile.

"Help?" repeated Jack, who, with Walter, had joined the group of
girls about the officer.

"Yes.  We have had news that the Ramona has been seen in this
vicinity, and we were after her.  But there was an accident to our
machinery, and we can't go on in the storm.  The cutter was obliged
to put back when we sighted you.

"I suggested to Captain Decker that possibly you could give us the
very help we needed.  You have an object in finding the Ramona, not
the same object as ourselves, but stronger, if anything," and the
lieutenant looked at Cora.  She nodded her head in assent.

"So it occurred to me," Lieutenant Walling went on, "that I might
continue the chase in the Tartar.  It is doubtful if our cutter could
manage to navigate in the storm we seem about to have, so we should
have been obliged to put back in any case, even if we had not had the
accident.  But you can stand a pretty good blow,"' he said, referring
to the Tartar.

 "She's a good little boat, all right," said Jack, who knew something
of motor craft.

"So I perceive.  And now, if you will allow me to use it on behalf of
the government, we will try to catch the Ramona."

"Is there really a chance of doing that?" asked Cora, in her
eagerness laying her hand on the sleeve of the young officer.

"There really is," was his answer.  "She has been sighted by a
fishing schooner--we had word from the captain of it.  And the Ramona
seems to be crippled.  She was going slowly.  We ought to catch her
soon--if this storm holds off long enough."

"Oh, isn't it exciting, Cora!" whispered Bess.  "Almost like the time
when you saved the papers in the red oar at Denny Shane's cabin!"

"Only I hope there are no physical encounters," spoke Cora, with a
shudder, as she recalled the strenuous days spent on Crystal Bay.

"I fancy you need not be alarmed," the lieutenant said.  "From what
we can learn, the mutineers and smugglers are rather sick of their
bargain.  There have been dissentions and part of the crew is ready
to give up.  But the others are afraid of the punishment that will be
meted out."

"Will it be heavy?" asked Belle.  "Heavy enough," was the significant
answer.  "It is a high crime to mutiny on the ocean, especially in
time of storm and trouble."

"Then you have a good chance of catching them?" asked Jack.

"We think so--yes."

"'But isn't this a rather--er--small force to capture a large
steamer, in possession of desperate men?" Walter wanted to know.

"It isn't as risky as you might think," answered Lieutenant Walling,
with a smile.  "As I said, the smugglers are now divided.  One-half
is already to turn on the other half.  Once they are commanded to
surrender, in the name of the government, I fancy they'll be only too
glad to."

"And what of the passengers--our folks?" asked Cora.

"Well, they are still aboard, as far as can be learned," was the
revenue officer's reply.  "If we have luck, you may be with them
before another day passes.  But we need luck," and as he said this,
he glanced around the horizon, as if to judge how much the elements
might figure in the odds against him.

Truly they seemed likely to make the chances anything but easy.  The
wind was constantly increasing in force, and from a low moan had
changed to a threatening whine and growl.  The seas were running high
and the swells were breaking into foam.  As yet the Tartar rode
easily, being now under way again, but though she might stand even
heavier waves than those now rolling after her, it would not be very
comfortable for those aboard.

"Will you take command?" asked Jack in answer to a look from his
sister.  "We'll turn this boat over to you, though we're United
States subjects and you're--"

"British--you needn't be afraid to say it," frankly laughed the
lieutenant.  "But I fancy we can strike up a friendly alliance.  No,
I don't wish to take command.  This is merely asking you for an
accommodation on your part.  You are after the Ramona, as I
understand it, and so am I.  I merely ask to be allowed to go along
and help you find her.  Once I get aboard I shall put under arrest
all the mutineers.  And you will be with your people."

"Oh, if we ever are again!"

"Which way was she headed when you last had information?" asked
Walter.

"Southeast," was the reply, "and she isn't far ahead of us now.  By
crowding on speed we can overtake her by morning."

"Hear that, Joe?" cried Jack.  "Do your best now!"

"Aye, aye, sir!" was the reply.

"Have you gasoline for a long run?" asked the lieutenant.

"Yes," Jack answered.  "We filled the tanks at St. Kitts.  But won't
you come below, and we'll arrange for your comfort."

"And do let me make you a cup of tea!" begged Cora.  "I know you
Englishmen are so fond of it--"

"Well, we get rather out of the habitat sea," was the reply, "but I
should be glad of some--if it isn't too much trouble."

Through the gathering dusk, the advent of which was hastened by the
coming storm, the Tartar heaved her way over the tumbling waters.
Night came, and still the storm did not break.  The lieutenant
proved a good seaman, and, under his direction the motor boat kept on
through the hours of darkness.  The motor girls did not rest much,
nor did Walter or Jack.

As morning came, the storm broke in all its fury--being little short,
in violence, of a West Indian hurricane.  On through the mist,
through the smother of foam, over the big greenish-blue waves scudded
the Tartar, the lieutenant, in oilskins, standing in the bows,
peering ahead for a sight of the steamer.

And, at noon, following a fierce burst of wind, he give a cry.

"What is it?" asked Jack, struggling toward.

"Ship ahead!  I think it is the Ramona!" was the answer.



CHAPTER XXVII

SENOR RAMO


Clinging to the life-lines that had been stretched along the deck,
Jack made his way to a partly-sheltered spot near which the
lieutenant stood.

"Where is she?" asked Jack, fairly shouting the words into the
officer's ear, for the noise of the storm was such as to make this
necessary.

"Right ahead!" was the answer.  "Look when we go up on the next
crest."

One moment the Tartar was down in the hollow of the waves, and the
next on the top of the swell, and it was only on the latter occasion
that a glimpse ahead could be had.

"Now's your chance!" cried Lieutenant Walling to Jack.  "Look!"

Eagerly Cora's brother peered through the mist, wiping the salty
spray from his eyes.  Just ahead, wallowing in the trough of the sea,
as though she were only partly under control, was a steamer.

"I see her!" Jack shouted, and then the Tartar, went down in the
hollow between two waves again, and he could glimpse only the
seething water as it hissed past  under the force of the wind.

"I think it's the Ramona--I'm not sure," was the lieutenant's next
remark.

"What are you going to do about it?" Jack wanted to know.

"Hang on as long as I can," was the grim reply.  "She doesn't look as
though she were good for much more, and we are."

"Yes, we seem to be making it pretty well," Jack answered.

Indeed the staunch little Tartar was more than living up to her name.
She was buoyant, and there was a power and thrust to her screw that
kept her head on to the heavy seas, which allowed her to ride them.

The chase was now on, and a chase it was, for soon after sighting the
steamer ahead of them, Lieutenant Walling, by means of powerful
glasses, had made sure that she was the Ramona, and, without doubt,
in charge of the mutineers, unless, indeed, the half of the crew
opposed to them, had risen, and taken matters into their own hands.

"But we'll soon find out," said the lieutenant, grimly.

"How?"' asked Cora, for, the officer had come down into the cabin.
"Can you board her now?"

"Hardly, in this blow, Miss Kimball.  But we can hang on, and get
them as soon as it lets up a little."

"Won't they get away from us?" Bess wanted to know.  She, as well as
her more fragile sister, had thoroughly entered into the spirit of
the chase now.

"I think we can more than hold our own with them," answered the
lieutenant.  "You have a very fast craft here, and owing to the fact
that they haven't much coal, and that they have probably suffered some
damage, we won't let them get away very easily.  We can hold on, I think."

"Then you won't try to run up alongside now?" Walter wanted to know.

"Indeed not!  It would be dangerous.  She rolls like a porpoise in a
seaway, and she'd crush us like an egg shell if we got too close.
All we can do is to hold off a bit, until this blows out.  And it
can't last very long at this season of the year.  Storms never do."

For all the hopeful prediction of the young officer, this blow showed
no signs of an early abatement.  The wind seemed to increase, rather
than diminish and the seas were still very high.

Through it all the Tartar behaved well.  Joe, with Slim Jim, the
faithful negro, to help, kept the motors up to their work, and
Walters Jack and the lieutenant took turns steering, for it was too
much to ask Joe or Jim to do this in addition to their other work.

The afternoon was waning, and it was evident that there would be
another early night, for the clouds were thick.  Walter and Jack had
gone up on deck, while the lieutenant remained in the cabin, taking
some hot tea which Cora had prepared for him.  A warm feeling of
friendship sprung up between the young officer and our travelers.
Inez was not feeling well, and had gone to lie down in her berth,
though it was anything but comfortable there, since the boat rolled
and pitched so.

"I say!" called Jack, down a partly opened port into the cabin, "I
think you'd better come up here, Lieutenant."

"Oh, he hasn't had his tea yet!" objected Cora.

"That doesn't matter--if something is up!" was the hasty rejoinder,
and, leaving the table, the revenue officer hastened up on deck,
buttoning his oilskins as he went.

"What is it?" he asked of the two young men.

"She seems to be turning," said Jack, "thought you'd better know."

"That's right.  I'm glad you called me.  Yes, she is changing her
course," said Lieutenant Walling.  "I wonder what she's up to?"

The Ramona--Jack and Walter had made out her name under her stem rail
now--was still slowly wallowing in the sea.  She appeared to have
lost headway, for she was moving very slowly, having barely
steerage-way on.  The Tartar had no trouble in keeping up to her.

"I wonder if they've seen us, and are waiting for us?" ventured
Walter.

"They may have seen us, but they wouldn't stop--not in this sea," was
the reply of the revenue officer.  "They're up to some trick, and I
can't just fathom what it is."

With keen eyes he watched the steamer as it tore on through the mist.
It was much nearer now.

"I have an idea!" suddenly exclaimed the British officer.  "I'll be
back in a moment."

He hurried down to the cabin again, and through a port Jack and
Walter saw him bending over some charts.  In a few minutes the
lieutenant was up on deck again.

"I understand!" he cried.  "I know what they're up to now."

"What?" asked Jack.  He did not have to shout so loudly now, as the
storm seemed to be lessening in its fury.

"They're going to run in under the lea of Palm Island," said
Lieutenant Walling.  "I guess they've had enough of it.  This is the
beginning of the end.  They must be in bad shape."

"Sinking--do you mean?" asked Walter.

"No, not exactly.  But they may have run out of coal, and can't keep
the engines going any longer.  Yes, that's what they're doing--making
for Palm Island."

"What sort of a place is that?" Jack wanted to know.

"A mighty ticklish sort of place to run for during a storm," was the
answer.  "There's a bad coral reef at the entrance to the harbor, but
once you pass that you're all right.  I wonder if they can navigate
it?"

"And if they don't?" asked Jack.

"Well, they'll pile her up on the reef, and she'll pound to pieces in
no time in this sea."

Walter and Jack followed the lieutenant to the after deck, where the
wheel was.  There the revenue officer relieved Joe, the latter going
to his motor, which needed attention.  The storm was constantly
growing less in violence.

As yet there was no sign of an island, but presently, through the
gathering darkness, there loomed up a black mass in the swirl of
white waters.

Now came the hard and risky work of getting in through the opening of
a dangerous coral reef to the sheltered harbor.  The big steamer went
first, and, for a time, it seemed she was doomed, for the current
played with her like a toy ship.  But whoever was in charge of the
wheel had a master's hand, and soon the craft had shot into the calm
waters, followed by the Tartar.

It was a great relief from the pitching and tossing of the last two
days.

"Oh, to be quiet again!"

"Isn't it delightful!" agreed Bess.  "And now if we can only find our
folks!"

Lieutenant Walling lost no time.  As the Ramona dropped her anchor,
he sent the Tartar alongside, and on his official hail a ladder was
lowered.  Walter and Jack mounted with him.

"Every mutinous member of this crew is under arrest!" was the grim
announcement of the revenue officer.  "Who's in charge?  Are there
any passengers aboard?"

Anxiously Jack looked for a sign of his mother, or for Mr. and Mrs.
Robinson.  He saw nothing of them.

"The passengers were all put ashore, sir," said sailor, with a
salute.

"Where?" demanded the lieutenant.

Before he could answer there came on deck a fat man, at the sight of
whom Jack uttered an exclamation.

"Senor Ramo!" cried Cora's brother.



CHAPTER XXVIII

FOUND


Unaware of what was taking place on the deck of the Ramona, for they
were far below its level in the Tartar, Cora, Belle, Bess and Inez
looked anxiously aloft.  They could hear a murmur of voices, but
little else.  It was nearly dark now, but Joe switched on the
electrics in the motor boat, and aboard the steamer lights began to
gleam.

"Well!" exclaimed Cora, with her usual spirit.  "I'm not going to
stay here and miss everything.  I want to see mother just as much as
Jack does."

She was as yet unaware, you see, of what the sailor had said to her
brother.

"Where are you going?" asked Bess, as Cora started for the dangling
accommodation ladder.

"Up there!" was the quick answer.

"Oh, Cora!  Don't leave us!" begged Bess.

"Come along then," suggested Jack's practical sister.

"But it is so steep!" complained Bess, who was more "plump" than
ever, due to the inactivity of the sea trip.

"It wont be any the less steep from waiting," spoke Cora, grimly,
"and it'll soon be so dark that you'll likely fall off, if you try to
go up.  I'm going--mother must be up there, and so must your folks."

"Of course!" cried Belle.  "Don't be a coward, Bess."

"I'm not, but--"

"I will help," said Inez, gently, as she glided up from the cabin.
"Perhaps zere may be news of my father!"

She had been very patient all this while regarding news of her
parent--very unselfish, for though the trip was partly undertaken to
aid Senor Ralcanto, if possible, nothing as yet had been done toward
this.  All efforts had been bent toward getting news of Mrs. Kimball,
and Mr. and Mrs. Robinson, and Inez had said nothing.  Even now, she
was willing to help others first.

"You're a dear," murmured Cora, her foot on the first step of the
mounting ladder.  "Oh, to think that all our worry is over now!"  She
had yet to learn what was in store for her and the others.

"Oh, I know I'll fall in!" cried Bess, as she essayed to go up.

"Don't be silly!" cautioned Cora.  "Belle, you pull her from in
front, and, Inez, you push.  We've just got to get her up."

The Tartar was made fast by a rope tossed from the deck of the
Ramona, and Joe and Slim Jim stood on deck, ready to execute any
commands that might come from the young navigators.  Cora and the
other girls safely reached the deck of the steamer.

A carious sight confronted them.

Jack and Walter stood confronting, in the glare of several electric
lights, the portly form of Senor Ramo, who seemed ill at ease.  The
members of the mutinous crew stood about, rather shame-facedly, it
must be confessed.  Lieutenant Walling wore an air of triumph.  He
had brought the criminals to the end of their rope.

"Jack!  Where are they?" asked Cora, impulsively.

"They--they're not here," her brother answered.

"Not here?  Then where are they?  Oh, don't say they're--"

Cora's voice could not frame the words.

At this moment Inez caught sight of Senor Ramo.   She was rather a
timid girl, and her troubles and, tribulations had not made her any
bolder, but now, at the sight of the man she believed had done, or
who contemplated doing her father an injury, the Spanish maid's
courage rushed to the fore.

Inez sprang forward and began to speak rapidly in Spanish.  Cora, who
had managed to pick up a few words, understood that Inez was making
a spirited demand for the papers which she accused the fat man of
having taken from her room.  Over and over again she insisted on
receiving them--here, now, at once, without delay!

So insistent was she that it looked, as though she meant to make a
personal assault on-Senor Ramo, and take the papers from his
ill-fitting frock coat.

"Whew!" whistled Walter, "that's going some, isn't it?"

"Walter!  How can you?" remonstrated Cora.  "At such a time, too!"

"Just can't help it!" he murmured.  "He's getting his deserts all
right."

Senor Ramo fairly backed away from the excited Inez, but she followed
him to the very rail, where, as he could go no further, he made a
stand, and continued to listen to her voluble talk.

"She certainly has some spirit," murmured lieutenant Walling to Cora.
"Is that the fellow she suspects?" he asked, for he had been told the
story of Inez.

"Yes," answered Cora.  "But is my mother aboard?  And Mr. and Mrs.
Robinson?"

"They're not!" broke in Jack.  "These scoundrels have put them
ashore--somewhere!"

"Oh!" cried Bess and Belle in chorus.

"Where?" demanded practical Cora.

"I am going to institute an inquiry at once," said Lieutenant
Walling.  "I'll also have something to say to that fat Spaniard.
Better tell your friend so," he suggested to the motor girls.  "She
might cause him to act hastily.  He might do something desperate."

"She only wants some papers she thinks he has," said Jack, "and I
guess she's going to get them," for Senor Ramo was putting his hand
to his inside breast pocket.

"I'll soon straighten out this tangle," the lieutenant promised.
"I'll have the ring-leaders locked up, and then we'll get at the
bottom of the whole affair.  I'd better send ashore for help, though.
May I use your boat?"

"Certainly," answered Cora.  She was keenly disappointed at not
finding the lost ones aboard.  She and the others had counted so much
on this when they should have come up to the Ramona.  Where could the
passengers be?

Jim and Joe were sent, in the Tartar, to bring aboard representatives
of the English government, Palm Island belonging to Great Britain.
The mutinous crew had no spirit of resistance left.  The erstwhile
commander of the rebelling forces was locked in his stateroom, until
Lieutenant Walling was reinforced, when others of the leaders were
put in irons.

"And I now I hope we can get some news," spoke Cora, when some sort
of order had been brought out of the confusion, and the ship had been
formally taken in charge by the authorities.

"You shall have all there is," promised Lieutenant Walling.  "First,
in regard to your parents," and he looked from Cora to the twins.
"They are safe, so far as can be judged, though they may be in some
distress."

"But where are they?" asked Cora, for Jack had found a chance to tell
her that he had been informed they were put ashore.

"On Double Island," answered Lieutenant Walling.  "They were made
prisoners when the mutineers rose and seized the ship.  They were
locked in their cabins, so some of those who have confessed told me,
and when the storm was over, they were treated fairly well.  They
were forced to remain on board while the plan of entering into the
smuggling game was carried on.  They tried to get ashore, or to send
messages for help, but were frustrated.

"Then, finally, some of the crew began to grumble at the presence of
the passengers.  Food was running low, and a certain amount of care
was required to prevent them from escaping.  The upshot of it was
that your parents were put ashore on Double Island, with a fairly
good amount of food and other supplies."

"How long ago?"

"Where is a Double Island?"

"Can't we start and rescue them?"

"What of Inez's father?"

These questions were fairly rained on Lieutenant Walling,  "One at a
time, please," he said, as he gazed at the young people gathered
about him in the cabin of the Ramona.  "It was over a week ago that
the passengers were put ashore on Double Island--there were only your
parents," he added, glancing again from Cora to the twins.  "All the
others had departed in the small boats when it was feared that the
Ramona was sinking.  As to the location of Double Island--it is about
two days' steaming from here.  We certainly can, and will, rescue
them, and as for the father of Miss Inez--well that is another
matter.  We shall have to see Senor Ramo.  He seems to know something
about the prisoner--at least Miss Inez thinks that does."

At that moment Inez came into the cabin.  Whether she had been all
this while "laying down the law," as Jack phrased it, to the Spaniard
was not, for the present, disclosed.  But she was greatly excited,
and she flourished in her hand a package of documents.

"I have ze papairs!" she cried, exultantly.  "Now my father will be
free.  Oh, Senorita you will help me--will you not--to go to Sea
Horse Island and rescue him?"

"Of course," spoke Cora, in answer to this pleading.  "My! but we
have lots of work ahead of us!" and she sighed.

"But you are equal to it, my dear," said Bess.

"Oh, to see papa and mamma again!"

"And to think of them living on some lonely little island!" sighed
her sister.  "We can't get to them quickly enough!"

"You had better go ashore for the night," suggested Lieutenant
Walling, "and we'll start early in the morning.  I'll go with you--if
you will let me," and he looked at Jack's sister.

"Of course," murmured Cora, blushing slightly.

"You'll need more gasoline perhaps, and other stores," the officer
went on.  "And the journey will be much easier made with a good
morning's start."

So it was decided.  Supper was served for the young people aboard the
Ramona, by direction of the British officer who was put in charge.
There was rather more room to move about than on the Tartar.  After
the meal--the merriest since the strange quest had begun--explanations
were forthcoming.

"I want to know how Inez got those papers away from Ramo," said
Walter, with a flash of admiration at the Spanish girl.

"Ah, Senor, it is no secret!" she laughed.  "I said I knew he had
zem, and if he did not gif 'em I would tear zem from his pocket!

"He gave zem to me," she finished, simply.

"Good for you!" cried Jack.  "What became of him?"

"I believe he went ashore in a small boat," said the lieutenant.
"I'm having him watched, though, for I think he had some hand in this
smuggling.  In fact, he may prove to be at the bottom of the whole
business."

And so it turned out.  Senor Ramo, while pretending to be a
respectable Spanish coffee merchant, had been engaged secretly in
smuggling.  It was he who planned the mutiny on the Ramona for
purposes of his own, though the storm gave him unexpected aid.  He
had joined the steamer later, after having stolen the papers from the
room of Inez.

For it was Ramo who had taken them.  His agents had sent him word
that Inez had the means to free the political prisoner, and as this
would have interfered with the plans of Ramo and his cronies, he
determined to frustrate it.  So, watching his chance, he took the
papers and fled to join his mutinous and smuggling comrades.  But the
fates were against him.  Later, it was learned that Ramo had tried,
through agents in New York, to get the papers from the Spanish girl.
And the tramp in Chelton was, undoubtedly, one of them.

Inez said Ramo explained to her that he intended to keep her father a
prisoner only a short time longer.  With Senor Ralcanto free, the
plans of the smugglers would have been interfered with, for the
father of Inez, and his party, stood for law and order.

"But now I free my father myself!" cried the Spanish girl, proudly.
"No more do I wait for that fat one!"

So with the papers which would eventually release the Spanish
prisoner, and well fitted out for the cruise to Double Island, the
party once again set forth on her cruise.

"There the island is!" cried Lieutenant Walling, on the second day
out.  "And I think I can see a flag flying.  Few ships pass this way,
but, very likely, the refugees would try to call one."

And, a little later, as the Tartar came nearer, Cora, who was looking
through the glasses, cried out:

"I can see them!  They are on shore!  There's mother, Jack!  She's
waving, though of course she doesn't know who we are.  And I see your
mother and father, girls!  Oh, Bess--Belle--we've found them!"



CHAPTER XXIX

AT SEA HORSE


There proved to be a good harbor at Double Island--a harbor ringed
about with sand-fringed coral, with a sandy bottom which could be
seen through the limpid depths of the blue water that was as clear as
a sapphire-tinted crystal.  And, a short way up from the beach was a
line of palms and other tropical plants, while, in a little clearing,
near what proved to be a trickling spring, was a rude sort of hut.

"Ahoy, folks!" yelled Jack, his voice a shout with its old vigor.
"Here we are!"

What the three on the beach said could not be heard, but they were
plainly much excited.

"They don't yet know who we are," said Cora.

"They only know they are being rescued," echoed Bess.

"Oh, but isn't it great--we've found them!" cried Belle in delight,
hugging first Cora, Bess and next Inez.

Inez said nothing, but her shining eyes told of the joy she felt in
the happiness of her friends.  Her time for rejoicing was yet to
come.

So little did the beach in the coral harbor shelve that the big motor
boat could come up to within a few yards of the shore.

"Why it's Jack--and Cora!" cried Mrs. Robinson.  "It's your son and
daughter--and the girls!  Oh, of all things!"

Mrs. Kimball could not answer.  She was softly crying on the shoulder
of Mrs. Robinson, Mr. Robinson, who had been trying to catch some
crabs along shore, had his trousers rolled up.  He was rather a
disheveled figure as he stood there--in fact, none of the refugees
appeared to sartorial advantage--but who minded that?

"Hurray!" yelled Mr. Robinson, waving, a piece of cloth on a
stick--an improvised crab-net.

"Hurray!  So you've come for the Robinson Crusoes; have you?"

"That's it!" shouted Jack, who was getting the small boat ready to go
ashore.

"I thought we'd find them," spoke Lieutenant Walling.

"Oh, and we can't, thank you enough!" Cora murmured to him
gratefully.  "Only for you we might not have located the Ramona in a
long time, and we night have been a month finding the folks.  And you
dear good girl!" she went on, putting her arms about Inez.  "Next we
are going to rescue your father."

"I shall be glad--mos' glad!" said the Spanish girl, softly.

Then they all went ashore, and brother and sisters were clasped in
the arms of their loved ones.

"But how did it all happen?" asked Mr. Robinson.  "How did you know
where to look for us?  Did the Ramona's crew repent, and send you for
us?  Tell us all about it!  How are you, anyhow?"

He poured out a veritable flood of questions, which the girls, Jack,
Walter and Lieutenant Walling tried to answer as best they could--the
girls, it must be confessed, rather hysterically and tearfully.

"It was Cora and Jack who had the idea," said Bess, when quiet had
been a little restored.  "They determined to charter a motor boat and
go in search of you, after we heard that the Ramona had foundered in
the storm.  And of course we wouldn't be left behind."

"Brave girls," murmured their mother.

"Indeed they were brave," declared Jack, patting Bess on her plump
shoulder.

"We--we were afraid of being left behind," confessed Belle.  "So we
came."

"But what have you done since being marooned here?" Cora wanted to
know.  "Wasn't it awful--just awful?"

"Not so awful!" answered Mr. Robinson, with a laugh that could be
jolly now.  "We've had a fine time, and you should see some of the
orchids I have gathered!  It was worth all the hardship!"

"But, really, it hasn't been so bad," said Mrs. Kimball.  "The
weather was delightful, except for the two storms, and we have had
enough to eat--such as it was.  We have been camping out, and no more
ideal place for such a life can be found than a West Indian coral
island in December."

She looked back amid the palms, among which grew in a tropical
luxuriousness many beautiful blossoms, with birds of brilliant
plumage flitting from flower to flower.

"And you look so well," commented Cora, for indeed, aside from traces
of sunburn, the refugees were pictures of health.

"We are well," declared Mrs. Robinson.  "But of course we have been
terribly worried about you girls, and Jack, too.  How are you, Jack?"
she asked, anxiously.

"You needn't ask," laughed Cora.  "One glance is enough."

"Oh, I had a little touch of my old trouble," said Jack, in answer to
his mother's questioning glance, "but I'm fine and fit now.  But tell
us about yourselves."

"Well, we're camping out here," said Mr. Robinson, with a laugh,
"waiting for some vessel to come along and take us off.  We could
have stood it for another month, though it was getting pretty
lonesome, with all due respect to the ladies," and he made a mock
bow.

"That's nothing to how tiresome just one man can get, my dears!" put
in his wife, to the girls.

Then they exchanged stories of their adventures.  As those of the
motor girls are well known to our readers, there is no need to dwell
further on them.

As the crew of the Ramona had confessed, they had set the passengers--Mrs.
Kimball and Mr. and Mrs. Robinson--ashore on Double Island, some time
after the uprising.  Our friends were glad enough to leave the vessel,
for there were constant bickering and quarrels among the mutineers.
Affairs did not go at all smoothly.

So it was with comparatively small regret that the refugees found
themselves set ashore.  They were given a boat, and a sufficient
supply of food and stores.  Only in the matter of clothing were they
handicapped, having only a few belongings, the mutineers keeping the
remainder.

"When we got ashore, and took an account of stock," said Mr.
Robinson, "I found some sort of shelter would be necessary, even if
we were in a land of almost perpetual June.

"This wasn't the first time I had gone camping, under worse
circumstances than these, so I soon put up this hut.  Not bad, is
it?" and he waved his hand toward the palm-leaf thatched structure.

"It's great!" cried Jack.  "I think I'll stay here a while myself,
and camp out."

"You may--I've had enough," said Mrs. Robinson.  "Oh, I do hope you
girls have some spare hairpins!" she exclaimed.  "Perry said to use
thorns, but even if Mother Eve did her hair up that way, I can't!"
she sighed.

"Well, to make a long story short," resumed Mr. Robinson, "we've been
here ever since.  And we are beginning to enjoy ourselves.  We've had
enough to eat, such as it is, though the tinned stuff gets a trifle
palling after a time.  So I've been trying to catch a few crabs."

"And he hasn't had any luck--he might as well confess," said his
wife.

"Give me time, my dear," protested Mr. Robinson.  "There's one now!"

He made a swoop with the improvised net, but the crustacean flipped
itself into deep water and escaped.

"Never mind--you're going to leave now, Dad!" said Bess, gaily.

The young folks inspected the rude hut, and were charmed by its
simplicity.

"Though it does leak," said Mr. Robinson.

"I must admit that."

"Leak!" cried Mrs. Robinson.  "It's a regular sieve!"

"Might as well haul down our signal," observed Mr. Robinson, for on a
tall palm, at a prominent height of the island, he had raised an
improvised flag.

Double Island was uninhabited, and was seldom visited by any vessels,
though in the course of time the refugees would have been rescued
even if the motor girls had not come for them.  But their experience
would have been unpleasant, if not dangerous.

"Well, let's go aboard and start back to civilization," proposed
Belle, after Lieutenant Walling had been introduced, and his part in
the affair told.

"But we mustn't forget Inez's father!" cried Cora.  "We still have
some rescue work to do."

"Oh, I'm so sorry I couldn't make any move along that line," spoke
Mr. Robinson.  "But now I'll attend to it, Inez."

"We'll make for Sea Horse Island at once," said Cora.  "Inez has the
papers with her.  Tell him how you threatened Senor Ramo, dear," and
the tale of the fat Spaniard was related.

Made comfortable aboard the Tartar, which had resumed her strange
cruise, the refugees told little details of their marooning, which
story there had not been time for on the island.

The days were pleasant, the weather all that could be desired, and in
due season Sea Horse was sighted.  This was a small place, maintained
by the Spanish government as a prison for political offenders.  As
the Tartar approached the fort at the harbor entrance, Lieutenant
Walling looked through the glass at several flags flying from a high
pole.

"Something wrong here," he announced.

"What do you mean?" asked Jack.

"Some prisoner, or prisoners, have escaped," was the answer.  "'The
signal indicates that.  We'll soon find out."

A curious idea came into Jack's head.



CHAPTER XXX

SENOR RALCANTO


Sea Horse Island was not attractive.  There was no coral enclosed
harbor, filled with limpid blue water--though the sea off shore was
blue enough, for that matter.  There were a few waving palms, and a
hill or two midland.  But that was all.  The principal building was
the political prison, and the barracks, or quarters of the commanding
officer and his aides.  In fact, Sea Horse Island was as little
beautiful as its name.  But the eyes of Inez glowed when she saw it,
for once it had been home to her.

"And now to see my father!" cried the Spanish girl, when preparations
were made for going ashore.  "Zey can hardly keep me from seeing him,
can zey?" she asked Mr. Robinson and Lieutenant Walling.

"I think not, my dear," said the former.  "And if I am any judge of
the worth of evidence, they can't refuse to let him go, after we show
our documents, though it may take a little time."

"Matters may not be all easy sailing now," suggested the British
officer.

"Why not?" demanded Cora.

"Because of the fact that there has been an escape--perhaps several,"
was the answer.  "Those signal flags are a warning to all vessels not
to take aboard any refugees that seem to have escaped from here,
unless they are taken as prisoners."

"How horrid!" murmured Bess.

"But we'll go see the commandant, and learn how matters stand," went
on Mr. Robinson.  "Fortunately I have letters from persons in
influence that may aid me.  And you have your papers, Inez?"

"Yes, Senor.  I have them," she answered.

Our friends were stared at rather disconcertingly as they landed, and
there was no little suspicion in the glances directed at them, as
they made their way to the commandant's quarters.

There was some delay before they were admitted, for they all went in
together, all save Walter, and he had said it might be best if he
remained on board the Tartar with Joe and Jim.

"We have come," said Mr. Robinson to the Spanish officer, "to arrange
for the release of Senor Ralcanto--the father of this young lady.  We
have papers which prove his innocence of the charge against him, and
I may add that one, of the men responsible for his unjust arrest is
himself a prisoner, and on a more serious charge than a mere
political one.  I refer to Senor Ramo, who is in jail at Palm
Island."

The commandant started.  Evidently he was regarding his callers with
more courtesy, for he had been a bit supercilious at first.

"Senor Ramo incarcerated?" he asked.  "Is it possible?"

"Very much so," went on Mr. Robinson, grimly.  "And now we come to
demand the release of Senor Ralcanto--or at least I demand to have an
interview with him--as does his daughter--that we may take measures
for freeing him.  If you will look at the copies of these papers, you
will see what authority we have," and he tossed some letters, and
copies of the documents Inez had recovered, on the table.

"I am sorry, but it is impossible to grant what you request," said
the commandant stiffly, hardly glancing at the papers.

"Why?" asked Mr. Robinson, truculently.  "Do you mean we cannot see
the prisoner, or that you will not release him?"

"Both!" was the surprising answer.  "You cannot see Senor Ralcanto
because he is not here.  And I cannot release him, had I the power,
for he has released himself.  In other words, Senor, he has escaped!"

"Escaped!" cried Jack and Cora in a breath.  "My father escaped!"
murmured Inez.  "Oh, praise ze dear God for zat!  He is free!  Oh,
but where is he?"

"That I know not, Senorita," was the stiff answer.  "I wish I did.
We have searched for him, but have not found him.  He must have had
friends working for him on the outside," and he glanced with
suspicious eyes at our friends.

"Well, we probably would have worked for him, had we had the chance,"
said Mr. Robinson, "but we had no hand in his escape.  May I ask how
he got away from your prison?"

"In a boat--about a week ago," was the grudging reply.  "That is all
I can say.  He is no longer on Sea Horse Island.  I have the honor to
bid you good-day!"

"Polite, at any rate," murmured Jack.  "Bow, what's our next move?"

"To find her father!" exclaimed the British officer, promptly.  He
had entered into this as enthusiastically as he had into the task of
finding the mutineers and smugglers.

"If he got away in a boat," resumed the lieutenant, "he would most
likely make for some island.  There are many such not far from here,
but these Spaniards are so back-numbered, they wouldn't think of
making a systematic search.  That's for us to do."

"Oh, if we can only find him!" murmured Inez.

"We will--never fear!" cried Jack, with as much enthusiasm as he
could muster at short notice.

It was little use to linger longer on Sea Horse Island.  No more
information concerning the escaped man was available.  It must be a
"blind search" from then on.  Still, the searchers did not give up
hope, and once more the Tartar was under way.

I shall not weary you with the details of the final part of her
cruise.  Suffice it to say that many islands were called at, and many
vessels spoken, with a view to finding out if any of the uninhabited
coral specks in that stretch of blue West Indian waters had, of late,
showed signs of being inhabited by a lone man.  But no helpful clue
was obtained.

Still the search was kept up.  Mr. Robinson, his wife and Mrs.
Kimball stayed with the young people, having renewed their wardrobes
at the first suitable stopping place.  Then the search was resumed.

And, curiously enough, it was Inez who discovered the torn rag,
floating from a tree, which gave the signal that help was needed at a
lonely isle they reached about two weeks after the search began.

"I think some one is zere," she said to Jack, pointing to the signal.

"It does look so," he agreed.  "We'll put in there."

"A hard place to live," said Lieutenant Walling, as he came on deck
and viewed the little Island.  "It is very barren."

"Do you--do you think it can be my father?" faltered Inez.

"It is possible--it is some poor soul, at all events--or some one has
been there," the officer concluded.

"You mean it may be too late?" asked Cora, softly.

Lieutenant Walling nodded his head in confirmation.

The Tartar anchored off shore, and the small boat went to the beach.
Hardly had it ground on the shingle than a tattered and ragged--a
tottering figure crawled from the bushes.  It was the figure of a
man, much emaciated from hunger.  But the eyes showed bright from
under the matted hair and from out of the straggly beard.  Inez, who
had come ashore with the first boat-load, sprang forward.

"Padre!  Padre!" she cried, opening wide her arms, "I have found you
at last!  Padre!  Padre!"

The others drew a little aside.

Once more the Tartar was under way.  She was nearing the end of her
strange cruise, for she was headed for San Juan--the blue harbor of
San Juan.  Seated on deck, in an easy chair, was a Spanish gentleman,
about whom Inez fluttered in a joy of service.  It was her father.

He had, after many failures, made his escape from Sea Horse Island in
a small boat, and had lived, for some time on the little coral rock,
hardly worthy the name islet.  He had almost starved, but he was
free.  Then his privations became too much for him, and he hoisted
his signal for help.  He would even have welcomed a Spanish party, so
distressed was he.

But his own daughter--and friends--came instead.  And, had he but
waited a few weeks, he need not have so suffered in running away from
his prison.  The papers Inez had secured would have brought about his
freedom from the unjust charge.

"But we have him anyhow!" cried Jack, "and a good job it was, too!"

"Isn't Jack just splendid!" murmured Bess to Cora.  "He is so well
again!"

"Yes, the trip, in spite of its hardships, has worked wonders for
him."

"And I suppose we'll have to go back North again soon," remarked
Belle.  "Papa's business here is practically finished."

"Yes, we are going back to civilization, without smugglers and
mutineers,"' said Mrs. Kimball.

"Oh, I rather liked them, they were sort of a tonic," laughed Mrs.
Robinson.

"Sometimes one can take a little too much tonic," spoke Cora.  "But
it certainly has been a wonderful experience."

The Tartar dropped anchor at San Juan, coming to rest in the waters
blue, over which she had skimmed on so many adventuresome trips of
late.

"Well, are you glad to be back here?" asked Jack, of Senor Ralcanto.

"Indeed, yes, I am.  And you have all been so kind to me.  I can
never repay you for what you have done for my daughter and myself,"
and he stroked the dark hair of Inez, who knelt at his side.

"Well, send for us again if you--er--need our services," suggested
Walter.

"Thank you--but I am going to keep out of prison after this," was the
laughing answer.

There is little more to tell of this story.  Senor Ralcanto was
speedily recovering from his harsh experiences, when our friends took
a steamer for New York, some weeks later.  The mutineers and
smugglers of the Ramona, including Senor Ramo, the real, influential
leader, were duty punished.

After a final cruise about the blue waters of San Juan, in the
Tartar, our friends bade farewell to the craft that had served them
so efficiently.

"Good-bye!" called Cora, as she stood on the steamer-deck, homeward
bound, and waved her hand to the blue sky, the blue waters, the blue
mountains and the green, waving palms.  "Good-bye!  Good-bye!"

And we will echo her words.


THE END





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Motor Girls on Waters Blue; Or, the Strange Cruise of the Tartar" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home